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THE LITTLE FELLOW 

The Life and Work of 

CHARLES SPENCER CHAPLIN 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

Media History Digital Library 



http://archive.org/details/littlefellowlifeOOcote 



THE LITTLE FELLOW 

(©. The Life and Work of 

CHARLES SPENCER CHAPLIN 



PETER COTES AND 
THELMA NIKLAUS 



4©^ PAUL ELEK 

38 Hatton Garden, London, E.C.I 



In memory of Sydney Bennett 

who through introducing the 

First Artist of the Screen to 

his precocious, emotional, 

and affectionate grand-child, was 

directly responsible for what follows 



Copyright 1591 

by Peter Coates and Thelma Niklaus 

Published by Paul Elek Publishers Ltd. 

38 Hatton Garden, London, E.C.I 

Printed by Kenion Press Ltd. 

216 High Street, Slough, Bucks. 

Typography by Sarah Clutton 



Catalogue No. 568/9 



i©^ Acknowledgements 

We are greatly indebted to W. Somerset Maugham, who has kindly 
allowed a passage from A Writer's Notebook, published by Willliam 
Heinemann Ltd., to stand as Foreword to this book. 

We desire to express our grateful thanks to Arthur Boulting; Adrian 
and Christopher Brunei; the Very Reverend the Dean of Canterbury; 
Robert Florey; Lawrence Gilliam; Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchi- 
son {Theatre Collection); Miss Alicia Markova; Ivor Montagu; Paul 
Rotha; Dr. Eric Saunders; the late George Bernard Shaw; Donald 
Ogden Stewart; Miss Molly Stoll and Norman Swallow; to all of 
whom we are indebted for advice and information. 

We should also like to record our appreciation of the courtesy and 
kindness of Miss Gitta Blumenthal (Assistant Curator of the National 
Film Library); Miss Norah Traylen (Stills Librarian, B.F.I.); and of 
Harold Brown (Vault Keeper, B.F.I.). 

Our thanks also to John Brophy, Thony Christie, Miss Joan Miller, 
Dr. Robert Niklaus and Mervyn Reeves, who read the first draft of 
the manuscript, and whose criticism was invaluable. 

The photographs are reproduced through the courtesy of the British 
Film Institute (p. 58-64, 82, 84, 105-108); Keystone Press Agency 
(33-40, 57, 112); Monidale Ltd. (Ill); United Artists Corporation 
(82-83,86-88, 109-110). 



*©^ Contents 



PART ONE CHAPLIN'S LIFE 



PART TWO 



Background to Genius 

The Artist Emerging 

The Influence of Fred Karno 

Pioneer Days in Film 

Fame and Fortune 

Marriage and Divorce 

The Wonderful Visit 

Public Success and Private Disaster 

The Coming of Talkies 

The Humanist in Society 

Portrait of a Great Man 

CHAPLIN'S WORK 

Experiment 

Development 

Achievement 

Moment of Defeat 

Mastery 

Monsieur Verdoux 

Charlie 

Man of Many Talents 

Chaplin at Work 

His Lasting Fame 



PHOTOGRAPHS 



APPENDIX A 
APPENDIX B 



Life 
Films 
Films 
"Charlie' 



The Films of Charles Chaplin 1914-47. 



Some Writings of Charles Chaplin 
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 



Page 

13 
17 
21 
25 
29 
44 
47 
54 
68 
73 
79 



97 
100 
103 
113 
115 
119 
122 
125 
127 
131 



33 

57 

81 

105 



137 

150 
156 



i©^ Foreword 

CHARLIE CHAPLIN. HE IS OF AN AGREEABLE EXTERIOR. HE HAS A NEAT 

figure, admirably proportioned; his hands and feet are well shaped 
and small. His features are good: the nose rather large, the moutli 
expressive and the eyes fine. His dark hair, touched with white, is 
waving and abundant. His movements are singularly graceful. He 
is shy. His speech has in it still a hint of the Cockney of his early 
youth. His spirits are ebullient. In a company in which he feels 
himself at ease he will play the fool with a delightful abandon. His 
invention is fertile, his vivacity unfailing, and he has a pleasant gift 
of mimicry: without knowing a word of French or Spanish he will 
imitate persons speaking in one or the other of those languages with 
a humorous accuracy which is wildly diverting. He will extemporize 
dialogues between a couple of women in the Lambeth slums which 
are at once grotesque and moving. Like all humour they depend on 
a close observation, and their realism, with all its implications, is 
tragic; for they suggest too near an acquaintance with poverty and 
squalor. Then he will imitate the various performers in a music- 
hall of twenty years ago or the amateurs at a cabmen's benefit in 
a public house on the Walworth Road. But this is mere enumeration : 
it omits the unbelievable charm that graces all his actions. Charlie 
Chaplin will keep you laughing for hours on end without effort; 
he has a genius for the comic. His fun is simple and sweet and 
spontaneous. And yet all the time you have a feeling that at the 
back of all is a profound melancholy. He is a creature of moods and 
it does not require his facetious assertion: "Gee, I had such a fit 
of the blues last night I didn't hardly know what to do with myself" 
to warn you that his humour is lined with sadness. He does not give 
you the impression of a happy man. I have a notion that he suffers 
from a nostalgia of the slums. The celebrity he enjoys, his wealth, 
imprison him in a way of life in which he finds only constraint. I think 
he looks back to the freedom of his struggling youth, with its poverty 
and bitter privation, with a longing which knows it can never be 
satisfied. To him the streets of southern London are the scene of 
frolic, gaiety and extravagant adventure. They have to him a reality 
which the well-kept avenues, bordered with trim houses, in which 
live the rich, can never possess. I can imagine him going into his 
own house and wondering what on earth he is doing in this strange 
man's dwelling. I suspect that the only home he can ever look upon 
as such is a second-floor back in the Kennington Road. One night 
I walked with him in Los Angeles and presently our steps took us 
into the poorest quarter of the city. There were sordid tenement 



8 

houses and the shabby, gaudy shops in which are sold the various 
goods that the poor buy from day to day. His face lit up and a 
buoyant tone came into his voice as he exclaimed: "Say, this is 
the real life, isn't it? All the rest is just sham." 

W. Somerset Maugham. 



t©^ Preface 

"ONE EVENING IN DECEMBER, I WAS COVERING THE SHORT DISTANCE 

between the theatre and my favourite cafe, as quickly as I could when, 
a few yards ahead, I recognized Charlie's familiar back. Instinctively, 
I slowed down, for I was suddenly filled with an inexpressible melan- 
choly as I became aware of the utter isolation of the most popular man 
in the world. He was walking slowly along, close to the unlit shop 
windows; there was a heavy mist, and Charlie, his hands in his 
pockets, kept up a little rhythmic movement of the elbows as he went 
along. His footsteps made no sound, his coat collar was turned up, 
and he was so very small in his big coat that he looked like a child 
dressed in his father's clothes." 

Robert Florey, one of Chaplin's few intimate friends, and an 
associate director of Monsieur Verdoux, wrote the above passage. It is 
a vivid impression of the lonely little tramp Charlie, who was Chaplin's 
other self and expressed his terrible solitude. Chaplin's solitude, and 
his sadness, are undeniable, and though his tempestuous and most 
troubled years are now behind him, those two factors must go with 
him to the end, because they are at the core of his personality. 

Chaplin is one of Bernard Shaw's "vital geniuses". There was in 
him from the beginning a passionate enjoyment of being alive, an 
upsurging stream of inexpressible and inexhaustible vitality and zest 
that puts him among those creative artists who are exceptionally 
lyrical, romantic and subjective. He stands with Shakespeare and 
with Dickens; his genius is of their kind, his expression of it as Eng- 
lish as theirs, even though he used a different medium: and his 
melancholy is theirs. 

He and Dickens particularly are of the same stock, filled with the 
same humanism, the same passionate pity for the underdog, the same 
blaze of anger against persecution, exploitation and injustice. They 
share too the same ingenuous sentimentality, the gift of pathos ex- 
ploited until it trembles on the edge of anti-climax, without ever quite 
falling over; the same keen eye for grotesque or endearing characteris- 
tics, the same tremendous feeling for outcast children. Jo the crossing 
sweeper, Oliver Twist and Smike are blood brothers of the Kid, 
indeed of Charlie himself. Dora and little Nell, Florence Dombey, 
Em'ly and their many prototypes walk through Chaplin's films and 
their simulacra through his life. Both Charles Dickens and Charles 
Chaplin express the same spontaneous, turbulent genius that is vulgar 
in the true and best sense of the word. It is their natural outpouring, 
unchecked, full of gusto and savour, streaked with great faults, 
accessible to all mankind, life blood transmuted into art. 



10 

Chaplin is the Dickens of the film world, with a dash of Shake- 
speare's ardour, poetry, and universal significance. 

Very little is lacking in that film world, except genius. Chaplin, in 
his own person, supplied that lack in several capacities. Actor, 
comedian, mime, dancer, producer, director, script-writer, musician, 
composer, conductor and business man, his total control of his work 
brought about a unique achievement. 

In his films, from the Keystone Comedies of 1914 to Monsieur 
Verdoux in 1947, Chaplin has presented in its nakedness his own per- 
sonality and the core of his artistry. Chaplin and Charlie grew up 
together. There has been throughout an intimate relation between the 
man and his work, the creator and the created. And Charlie, so much 
a projection of his creator, became a universal figure, recognized by 
all nations and races, accepted and understood by every heart. 

Chaplin, in common with all who cannot be brought into the herd,, 
is much loved and much hated, and the clue to it all is in his work. 
We, who are among those who love Charlie and admire Chaplin, 
undertook this book in the hope of reviving old memories, and helping, 
to bring about a greater understanding of a very great man. 



11 

PART ONE c©, CHAPLIN'S LIFE 

Background to Genius 

The Artist Emerging 

The Influence of Fred Karno 

Pioneer Days in Films 

Fame and Fortune 

Marriage and Divorce 

The Wonderful Visit 

Public Success and Private Disaster 

The Coming of Talkies 

The Humanist in Society 

Portrait of a Great Man 



13 
t@. Background to Genius 

IN THE YEAR 1889, TWO EVENTS TOOK PLACE, ONE OF WORLD WIDE 

interest, the other of interest to very few people indeed. In America, 
Thomas Alva Edison invented the Kinetoscope, ancestor of the 
motion-picture camera; and in England an obscure music-hall artist, 
Hannah Chaplin, gave birth to a son, Charles, destined to become the 
greatest exponent of the art of film. 

If, as Hamlet insisted, "there is a destiny that shapes our ends, 
rough hew them how we will", this coincidence is extremely interest- 
ing. In the years following Edison's invention, a great film industry 
struggled for survival against all the vicissitudes of poverty. It was 
not until 1913 that the young Cockney lad entered the world of film 
and, in a remarkably short space of time, made it his own. 

Charlie Chaplin was born into a theatrical background. His father, 
Charles Chaplin senior, was a singer well known to the music hall 
public of the eighties. He was an amiable person, with a considerable 
knowledge of music, and a versatility that allowed him to take part in 
straight plays whenever opportunity offered. He used to boast that in 
his time he had played every character known to the English stage. 
Certainly he did not reach the greatest heights, either in the theatre 
or on the halls; and all that remains of his temporary popularity is 
his likeness, in topper and dress coat, on the cover of a nineteenth 
century music sheet — Pals that time cannot alter. 

His wife, Hannah, was also a small time artist and a singer, appear- 
ing under the name Lily Harley. She had taken leading roles in stock 
companies performing Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and had also 
toured the halls as a singer and dancer in vaudeville. At the time of 
Chaplin's birth, his parents were touring their own act, and as 
soon as it was humanly possible, they set off again, taking with them 
the new baby and his two-year-old half-brother Sydney. 

It was not an easy life for those young parents. There was always 
anxiety about future bookings, the wear and tear of continually mov- 
ing from one place to another, the dreariness of indifferent lodgings, 
the discomfort and difficulty of life on tour with very young children. 
Hannah, taking a hurried last look at the sleeping baby dumped in a 
corner of the crowded dressing room before she went on, must often 
have longed for a more stable existence. 

The earliest tragedy to touch Chaplin was his father's death. He 
has told how he stood all night long outside St. Thomas' Hospital, 
watching the light that shone from the unshuttered window of the 
ward where he knew his father to be, locked in the desolation and 



14 

terror of the very small child who is aware of catastrophe impending 
without knowing its nature or cause. 

With the death of his father came absolute penury. Hannah, until 
now the driving force of the little family, stronger than her gentle, 
ineffectual husband to carry the burdens of existence, lost heart with 
his going. She could not accept many professional engagements, be- 
cause of the children. She had no income, and the problem of main- 
taining even a moderate standard of living was insoluble. 

Chaplin by this time resembled any urchin running wild in Chester 
Street or Kennington Park or Lambeth Walk. Among the noisy crowd 
of quarrelling guttersnipes Charlie held his own — an undersized child 
covered with the grime and filth of the streets and gutters of Lambeth, 
possessor of a raucous Cockney voice that could easily shout all others 
down. 

Like most youngsters, he led a dual existence. Outside, there was 
all the excitement of gang warfare, of inciting his playmates like a 
young Napoleon against the enemy that lurked in the next backyard. 
There was the glory of playing hookey from the school he hated, of 
swimming in the Kennington baths whenever he could afford the 
entrance-money, of attending the magic lantern shows at the Baxter 
Hall, where a penny would entitle him to coffee and cake as well as a 
fascinating exposition of the Crucifixion or the Flight into Egypt. 
There was the illicit fun of pilfering from street stalls; and there was 
the stimulus of escaping from the heavy-footed policeman on the 
beat whenever two of the local toughs started fighting in the middle 
of the streets, or a stray ball broke a window. 

Then there was the endless fascination of the streets and the shops, 
like bright caverns filled with unimaginable treasure. The hungry little 
boy pressed his nose against the pastrycook's window, feeding his 
empty stomach with the warm smell of bread and the sight of succu- 
lent cakes and pastries covered with icing and stuffed with fruit and 
cream. Old bookshops fascinated him even though he could not read. 
It was enough for him to look at prints and engravings and illustra- 
tions for his active imagination to be led into other worlds. 

He became a social success among his peers and among his neigh- 
bours when it was discovered that he could imitate everyone and 
everything, from the poor old cabby with the bad feet and boots that 
were too big for him to the local rent collector who was always swiping 
ineffectually at the drops hanging perpetually from the end of his 
nose. 

His home life was soberer altogether. Hannah, in her anxiety and 
growing ill health, treated him as a contemporary. He shared her 
worries, and her perpetual struggle to make ends meet. There was the 



15 

closest bond between them, and Charlie suffered with her and for her. 

He and Sydney, before childhood was left behind, had earned their 
living in a multitude of ways. They had both helped their mother with 
the sewing which brought in a small income. Charlie for a time sold 
newspapers at Ludgate Circus, running barefoot after customers, 
trying to increase the number of copies sold. They made toys out of 
cardboard, wastepaper and matchsticks and sold them to their 
wealthier friends or to passers by. Charlie was already showing an 
unusual gift for dancing, and one of their favourite ways of earning 
money was to follow a barrel-organ man until he reached a pitch. Then 
Charlie would dance and attract an amused crowd, while Sydney took 
round the hat. Quick as lightning the children would run off with, 
the money taken, pursued by the cries of the organgrinder who sud- 
denly realized he was to have no share in the profits. 

Occasionally some member or another of the little family would 
get a minor engagement on the halls, and for a few days the spectre 
of destitution would be put to flight. 

In spite of all these efforts, the two boys were nearly always 
hungry, their lusty appetites cheated with soup from the free soup 
kitchen, rotten fruit gathered from the gutters into which it was 
thrown by the stall holders, and odd pennyworths of stale cake. Cloth- 
ing was sketchy and insufficient, bedding likewise, and sometimes, 
when all their meagre resources had failed them, they were forced 
into a midnight flit, taking their few belongings surreptitiously from 
one shabby room to another even shabbier. If the landlady were 
shrewd enough to suspect what they were planning, she would put a 
distraint upon their goods; and then the new life would begin with 
only mattresses, to which they were entitled by law, to furnish the 
new lodging. 

The hopelessness of their existence, the relentless anxieties that 
beset her caused Hannah to have a complete breakdown. Charlie never 
forgot the horrifying moment when he returned home to find several 
neighbouring children standing by the house eying him curiously. 
They told him that his mother had been taken away in an ambulance, 
and when he rushed up to their room he found it empty. 

For a time, Syd and he led the lives of little vagabonds, sleeping in 
parks, feeding on street refuse, with no one responsible for them, and 
they responsible to no one. When, however, this state of affairs was 
discovered by those in authority, the two boys were sent to the Han- 
well Institution, a workhouse orphanage for destitute children, where 
Charlie, who until then had enjoyed the fullest freedom of the streets, 
found himself behind doors that were barred and bolted against him. 
That was perhaps the unhappiest period of his early years. Living 



16 

apart from the mother to whom he was utterly devoted, in conditions 
different from any he had known before, he pined for his release. 
And it was a happy day for him when his mother was able to make 
a home for him again. 

Charlie survived his childhood; but the mark of it never left him. 
He drew upon the experiences and background of those early years to 
furnish the most poignant episodes of his films — The Kid is very 
largely autobiographical. And Charlie, the little tramp, that comic 
endearing figure who captured the hearts of three hundred million 
people, is none other than the boy Charlie, the little hungry gutter 
urchin, denied everything, who yet had the spirit to conquer adverse 
circumstances. 

In a Transatlantic call to Lambeth which was broadcast on March 
5th, 1943, Chaplin gives a vivid picture of the memory left with him 
of his early days : — 

"Although I left Lambeth thirty-five years ago, I shall always 
remember the top room at 3, Pownall Terrace, where I lived as a boy; 
I shall always remember climbing up and down those three flights of 
narrow stairs to empty those troublesome slops. Yes, and Heeley's, the 
greengrocer's in Chester Street, where one could purchase fourteen 
pounds of coal and a pennorth of pot herbs and a pound of tuppenny 
pieces at Waghorn's the butchers; and Ash's the grocer's where one 
bought a pennyworth of mixed stale cake, with all its pleasant and 
dubious surprises. 

"Yes, I went back and visited that little top room in Pownall Ter- 
race, where I had to lug the slops and fourteen pounds of coal. It was 
ail there, the same Lambeth I left, the same squalor and poverty. Now 
they tell me that Pownall Terrace is ruined, is in ruins, blasted out of 
existence by the German blitz. 

"I remember the Lambeth streets, the New Cut and the Lambeth 
Walk, Vauxhall Road. They were hard streets, and one couldn't say 
they were paved with gold, nevertheless the people who lived there are 
made of pretty good metal." 

That was his background as a child, calculated to reduce anyone 
enduring it to the condition of "inertia that comes of lost hope", a 
phrase Chaplin uses in describing an old blind man known to him in 
those days. But Charlie was no ordinary urchin, and the basis of his 
future work arose from the unpromising elements surrounding his 
early days. 



17 
c©^ The Artist Emerging 

IT WAS INEVITABLE THAT SOONER OR LATER CHAPLIN SHOULD ENTER 

the world of entertainment in search of a living; and, given the desti- 
tution of his family, that his entry should be an early one. 

His short spells as newsboy, toymaker and lather boy in a barber's 
shop brought little profit; while it was clear almost from babyhood 
that he had unusual gifts. 

The hours he spent in closest companionship with his mother fos- 
tered and developed his native gift for mimicry and dancing. To 
entertain her when she was depressed, he would clown and play the 
fool, growing beside himself with delight as he saw her sadness dis- 
appearing before his buffoonery. At that time, it was something urgent 
and spontaneous, the same impulse which made him mimic various 
neighbours, or dance fantastic measures with a sober face until his 
playmates laughed themselves silly and urged him on to wilder 
mockery. In the opinion of the neighbourhood "that kid Charlie was a 
reg'lar caution". And never more so than when he was trying to coax 
his mother out of the blackness of despair. 

She, the professional, recognized a real talent, seized upon it and 
trained it, giving him a basis of technique while he was still almost a 
baby. She was herself a skilled mimic, and the child spent happy hours 
with her, as she looked out of their small window, commenting on the 
passersby, aping their idiosyncrasies and unconsciously opening her 
son's eyes to the amazing variety of humankind, and its basic 
sameness. 

She still had her professional contacts. The older brother, Sydney, 
had already had one or two engagements, through her agents. As soon 
therefore as she felt Charlie was ready for a professional appearance, 
she secured for him a place among the Eight Lancashire Lads, a 
troupe of child clog dancers. By the time he was eight years old, he 
was already a veteran of the troupe, and had appeared in most music- 
halls in the north of England. 

No laws then protected the child performer; and when we bear in 
mind the fact that as recently as 1948, British Equity, the actors' 
Trade Union, disclosed the iniquitous underpayment and treatment of 
child performers in many entertainment centres, it will take little 
imagination to envisage the conditions governing the life and work of 
this eight year old at the end of the last century — the fifth or sixth 
share of a bed with dingy, often verminous sheets; the poor food; the 
long hours of work — travelling, rehearsing, the two or three shows 
daily. It was a gruelling apprenticeship and serves to show that Chap- 
lin achieved his earliest theatrical experience the hardest way possible. 



18 

He was still a member of the troupe in 1899, when he was ten years 
old, and a seasoned trouper. 

In the theatre records of the period, the name Charles Chaplin crops 
up here and there, at the foot of a variety bill, or against a very minor 
juvenile role. 

He was present on two historic occasions. On January 15th, 1900, 
the London Hippodrome, which had previously been a circus, was 
opened as a theatre, and the eleven year old Chaplin took a small part 
in a sketch called Giddy Ostend. Four years later he was one of the 
wolves in the first performance of Peter Pan at the Duke of York's on 
December 27th, 1904. 

Between these events, he had played the boy Billy in Sherlock 
Holmes, had toured the provinces with A Romance of Cockayne and 
then returned to London to resume the part of Billy in a revival of 
Sherlock Holmes. There is a revealing anecdote in connection with 
the last-named play. Chaplin was eleven when he first played Billy. 
When Gillette handed him the script of his part, he dared not confess 
to the management that he could neither read nor write, for fear of 
losing his chance. He took the part home with him, and sat up all 
night with his mother, who taught it to him word by word. 

At fifteen, Chaplin was an experienced professional, accustomed 
to all the rigours of life on tour, familiar with most of the second- 
rate provincial houses, and some of the leading London theatres. 
Before he had reached adolescence, seven gruelling years of hard 
work and harsh experience were behind him. 

By 1906, when he was seventeen, he was appearing fairly regularly 
in music-hall, first as a solo turn with a repertoire of songs that was, 
to suit the tastes of the time, both tragic and comic; and later as 
one of a team of slapstick comedians in Casey's Court, where he was 
given opportunities for clowning that he seized upon with both hands. 

From his position at the foot of the bill, the young professional 
absorbed all that music hall could offer, watched other turns, 
comedians, singers, dancers — stored up impressions, turned his 
intuitive and untrained mind upon the material to hand, much as 
the little vagabond, his earlier self, had wandered through the streets 
of London, alert and open-eyed. 

As Chaplin's profesional life developed, so did his desire to acquire 
the graces that so far had been lacking. He was still poor, but not 
destitute, so that he could begin to affect a shabby elegance. Over 
the years, he had conquered his illiteracy, which had been due more 
to schooldays broken into by early theatrical engagements, domestic 
disaster, and his own reluctance to attend school regularly, than to 
any lack of intelligence on his part. He spent happy hours browsing 



Duke of York's Theatre 



Proprietors 
Sole Lessee and Manager 



ST MARTIN'S LANE W C 



Mr & Mrs Frane Wtatt 

CHARLES FROHMAN 



CHARLES FROHMAN PRESENTS 
A DRAMA IN FOUR ACTS 

BY A. CONAN OOYLE 

and WILLIAM GILLETTE 

ENTITLED 

SHERLOCK HOLMES 



BEING A HITHERTO UNPUBLISHED EPISODE 
IN THE CAREER OF THE GREAT DETECTIVE 
AND SHOWING HIS CONNECTION WITH THE 

STRANGE CASE OF MISS FAULKNER 



SHERLOCK HOLMES ... 

DOCTOR WATSON 

JOHN FORHAN 

SIR EDWARD LEIOHTON 

COUNT VON STAHLBURd 

PROFESSOR MORIARTY 

JAMES LARRABEE ... 

8IDNEY PRINCE ... 

ALFRED BASSICK 

JIM CRAIGIN 

THOMAS LEARY 

"LIGHTFOOT" MCTAGDE 

JOHN 

PARSONS 

BILLY 

ALICE FAULKNER 

MRS. FAULKNER 

MADGE LARRABEE 

THERESE 

MRS. SMEEDLEY 



william gillette 
kenneth riv1ngton 
eugene mayeur 
reginald dance 
frederick morris 
george sumner 
francis carlyle 
quinton Mcpherson 
william h. day 
chris walker 
henry walters 
walter dison 
thomas quinton 

G. MERTON 
CHARLES CHAPLIN 
MARIE DORO 
DE OLIA WEBSTER 
ADELAIDE PRINCE 
SYBIL CAMPBELL 
ETHEL LORRIMORB 



FIRST ACT-DRAWING ROOM AT THE LARRABEES'-EVENING 
SECOND ACT-Scene I-PROFESSOR MORIARTVS 

UNDERGROUND OFFICE-MORNING 
Scene II-SHERLOCK HOLMES' APARTMENTS 

IN BAKER STREET- EVENING 
THIRD ACT-THE STEPNEY GAS CHAMBER-MIDNIGHT 



Scenery by Ernest Gros 



Incidental Music by William Fdrst 



INTERMISSIONS 
Between the ist and 2nd Acts, o minutes 
Between the 2nd and 3rd Acts, 71 * 
Between the 3rd and 4th Acts, if 



MATINEE every Saturday at 2.15 o'clock 

BUSINESS MANAGER— JAMES W MATHEWS ACTING MANAGER -ROBERT M EBERLE 

STAGE MANAGER-WILLIAM POSTANCE MUSICAL DIRECTOR-JOHN CROOK 

ICES TEA AND COFFEE oan be had off the Attendant* 



The programme of the revival of Sherlock Holmes, in 
which Chaplin played the part of Billy 



20 

over the shabby volumes in second-hand booksellers, in trying to fill 
the vast gaps in his mind, to understand, immediately and finally, 
the riddle of the universe. 

Every penny he could spare went on gallery seats — at Daly's where 
he was enchanted with the young Marie Tempest; in the local music- 
halls, where he studied the turns of the comedians, quickly learning 
their patter and their songs, mastering any new dance steps that came 
along with unusual ease. He climbed the gallery to hang upon 
Beerbohm Tree's performance in Shakespeare's plays; only to imitate 
him afterwards, to the huge delight of the players and music-hall 
artists who visited Kennington, among whom he now mixed as 
an old hand. 

About this time, two major experiences came to him — his first love 
affair, and his discovery of music. 

He fell in love with Hetty Kelly, the sister of an old friend. It 
was a charming boy and girl affair, that came to nothing. They 
walked together in Kennington Park, sat and talked together of all 
they would do in the future stretching its shining years ahead, and 
behaved generally as all young creatures do when first love opens 
magic casements for them. Perhaps it was nostalgia for the elusive 
Hetty that later sent Charlie the little tramp in eternal and unavailing 
pursuit of his lovely blonde, always played in Chaplin's early films 
by Edna Purviance. 

Certainly her memory stayed with him, when the memory of 
countless others had faded and gone. On his return to London, at 
the height of his universal fame, he enquired after Hetty, only to 
learn that she had died two years before. When he took his solitary 
pilgrimage to the haunts of his childhood, he came to Kennington 
Park and found there the ghost of the nineteen-year-old boy, dressed 
to kill, waiting eagerly for the first glimpse of Hetty. The trams 
still clanged by; but no Hetty in her fresh print dress and her new 
hat descended from them. She was gone, as the boy was gone, 
and there was left an aching nostalgia that made Chaplin, writing 
of the incident later, cry out "Kennington Park! How depressing 
Kennington Park is! How depressing to me are all parks! The 
loneliness of them. One never goes to a park unless one is lonesome. 
And lonesomeness is sad. The symbol of sadness, that's a park". 

Chaplin the artist was emerging all the time, in his work, in his 
thirst for knowledge, and in his reaction to the experiences that came 
to him. His discovery of music is a case in point. For he made it 
through hearing, at Kennington Cross, the distant playing of a 
harmonica and clarinet. The melody was a popular one of the day: 
"You are the honey, honeysuckle, I am the bee, 



21 

I'd like to sip the honey, dear, from those red lips. You see 
I love you dearly, dearly, and I want you to love me. 
You are my honey, honeysuckle, I am your bee, — " 
as hackneyed then as any that is now daily plugged upon the radio. 
But that does not alter the validity of the experience. To the boy 
Chaplin it was a haunting message of transcendent beauty, a revela- 
tion of a whole mode of expression he had never dreamed existed, 
which gave him an instinctive understanding of music. From that 
moment of impact, music became one of the important influences in 
his life, a solace, a relaxation, as well as an added factor in his 
career. It is curious that the distant echoes of two street performers 
should set so much in train. 

While Charlie was entirely taken up with all the ramifications of 
his profession and his private life, Syd unconsciously added a new 
and glittering thread to his younger brother's web of destiny. Syd, 
after earlier abortive attempts to make his own and the family's 
fortune, had been engaged by one Fred Karno, at the princely starting 
salary of £3 per week. Syd was by now a clever comedian, and 
Karno was abundantly satisfied with his work. It was this fact that 
gave Syd enough courage to beg an audition for his kid brother. 
It is clear that at this period of their lives, Syd still felt some respon- 
sibility for his brother, and was therefore eager to secure an 
engagement for him in a company where working conditions were 
good, under a management that was extremely well known and very 
highly respected. 

Up to this moment, Charlie's career had been a matter of chance. 
Now Fate, in the guise first of Syd, then of Fred Karno, stepped in; 
and from that moment, Charlie's future was inevitable. 

t©^ The Influence of Fred Karno 

FRED KARNO WAS ONE OF THE OUTSTANDING THEATRICAL FIGURES 

of the early part of this century. Through winning an amateur contest, 
he began his career as an acrobat; then later became one of the most 
famous impresarios of his time. He was a born man of the theatre, 
with a natural flair for publicity, an ability to give the public what 
it wants when it wants it, and an immediate perception of potential 
talent. Among those who owe their discovery to him, and indeed 
the basis of their art, were Billy Bennett, Sydney and Charles 
Chaplin, George Carney, Billy Danvers, Mark Daly, Flanagan and 
Allen, Gene Gerrard, Will Hay, Sydney Howard, Bobby Howes, Fred 
Kitchen, Max Miller and Naughton and Gold. 

In his Fun Factory in Camberwell — "three tall, gaunt, converted 



22 

houses near Loughborough Junction' ' — sets, costumes, and props were 
made for the companies of acrobats, mimes, comedians and singers 
who went forth every night in Karno's special buses to do the rounds 
of the music-halls. His shows became the fashion, his name was on 
everyone's lips, and music-hall artists reached the summit of their 
dreams when they were engaged by Karno. 

His early work as impresario — the famous sketches Hilarity, Jail 
Birds, Early Birds, The New Woman's Club, and those he directed 
subsequently — derived from the Italian mime that reached its zenith 
with the Comedie Italienne in France in the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries, and that gave rise to the figures of Harlequin, 
Columbine, Pantaloon, and Clown in the English pantomime of the 
nineteenth century. The sketches were improvised, mimed, and filled 
with knockabout farce — drunks, clowns, custard pies, whitewash and 
stepladders. A considerable part of the special humour of Karno's 
sketches lay in the absurdity of the trick that doesn't quite come 
off — the conjuror who never makes it, the singer who prepares 
ostentatiously to sing, and then cannot utter a note, the billiards 
player whose cue never comes into contact with the ball, the drunk 
who never quite manages to climb down on to the stage from his 
box. For the rest, Karno's companies were famous for their skill 
and precision in pace, timing and team work, and for the general 
excellence of their production. 

By 1907, when Chaplin's path crossed that of Karno, the Fun 
Factory at Camberwell was churning out unlimited sketches from 
mimed slapstick through burlesques with song and dance like 
Saturday to Monday or Wakes Week, to musical farces like Cherry 
Blossom or A Tragedy of Eros, together with short plays and full 
length pantomimes. The world-famous sketch Mumming Birds had 
been launched on its colossal run, that was to remain unequalled in 
the history of music-hall; and in Hollywood, a certain Mack Sennett, 
engaged in making comedy films, was offering handsome contracts 
to any of Karno's comedians who entered America as members of 
Karno's troupes touring abroad. 

Karno consented to see Chaplin because of Syd's urgency, and 
found him at first sight disappointing, as he reported afterwards: 
"Syd brought his kid brother along — a pale, puny, sullen-looking 
youngster. I must say that when I first saw him, I thought he looked 
much too shy to do any good in the theatre, particularly in the 
knockabout comedies that were my speciality." 

Karno watched his new recruit closely, but soon discovered that 
professionally he was an asset. Chaplin's gift for clowning and mime, 
his dramatic facility, and the muscular dexterity he had acquired 



23 

through his prentice years, were all factors contributing to his 
immediate success in Karno's troupe of comedians. But socially it 
was another picture. "He wasn't very likeable". Karno admitted 
ruefully, "I've known him go whole weeks without saying a word to 
anyone in the company. Occasionally he would be quite chatty, but 
on the whole he was dour and unsociable. He lived like a monk, had 
a horror of drink, and put most of his salary away in the bank as soon 
as he got it." 

This weedy, silent seventeen-year-old, is exactly what we should 
expect at this stage. Charlie was still suffering from the physical 
strain of his burdened childhood and poverty-stricken adolescence. 
So far, no real release had been found for his unusual talents; and 
his catholic reading at this time — politics, economics, philosophy, 
Schopenhauer and Shakespeare, a little medical science and some 
history — was an absorbing and indigestible medley for his vividly 
intelligent mind. 

The first sketch of Fred Karno's in which the boy Chaplin was 
given a part specially made for him was called The Football Match. 
He played a melodramatic villain whose fell purpose it was to bribe 
the goalkeeper, Harry Weldon, with untold wealth and unlimited 
drink, to sell the match. He wore a slouch hat and a vast cloak a la 
Guy Fawkes and — historical moment! — a little black moustache. 

His work in this sketch made Karno offer him the principal part 
in a new show, Jimmy the Fearless : and no one was more astonished 
than Karno when this unfledged member of his company showed no 
eagerness to seize a chance that any other promising young comedian 
would have jumped at. Whether through nervousness or through a 
genuine lack of interest in that particular part, Chaplin hedged to 
such a degree that Karno, a little piqued, offered it to another boy in 
the company, Stanley Jefferson, who subsequently became Stan 
Laurel, of Laurel and Hardy fame. 

The young Jefferson made a great success of the part, and later, 
when he was transferred to another of Karno's companies, Chaplin 
gladly accepted the role Karno had originally intended for him, and 
gave it for the first time at the Alhambra, Bradford. 

The sketch was concerned with the heroic dream exploits of a 
working-class lad, and Chaplin, by now finding his artistic feet, was 
able to add to its presentation considerable comedy business of a 
kind recognized later in his earliest films. 

It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of the years 
Chaplin was with Karno; and the influence of those years made 
its mark upon the whole of his subsequent film work, to such a 
degree that in his latest film to date, Monsieur Verdoux (1947), there 



24 

are moments that derive from the Karno background — Verdoux's 
unexpected disappearance through a window, his brilliant juggling 
with cup and saucer while he flings himself quite literally at the 
feet of his next victim, his abortive attempts in a boat to strangle 
Martha Raye. 

Karno's was a school entirely suited to Chaplin's gifts. Farce is 
one of the most fertile sources of comedy and in Karno's shows 
it reached its zenith of inventiveness. Every potentiality of Chaplin 
was exercised during those enriching years, so that later, part of 
his great originality was due to the use he made of the situations 
devised by Karno in his music-hall sketches. He was able, through 
his genius, to lift that humour to another plane, change the quality 
of the laughter that was evoked by it. His apprenticeship with Karno 
gave him the germ of many of his early films; his genius caused that 
germ to develop along lines that are best shown in the difference 
between the entertaining but stock figure of Jimmy the Fearless, and 
Charlie the little tramp, who embodied all mankind. 

Moreover, the wide scope of Karno's repertoire — which resembled 
more than anything else the vaudeville shows given in the little 
boites dotted here and there along the boulevards of Paris, where 
pathos and satire, drama and idyll, melancholy and gaiety go hand- 
in-hand — added to Chaplin's versatility, while the high standards 
Karno demanded of his companies gave him polish and finesse as 
well as adding to his already considerable technique. 

Chaplin's career was, in this sense, launched by Fred Karno, who 
had launched so many celebrities, but none greater than the "sullen- 
looking youngster" Syd Chaplin brought along. There is no doubt 
that his early years in films achieved their incredible momentum 
because of the years with Karno that had preceded them. 

There was another factor of importance. While the young Chaplin 
was developing his unusual talent under the aegis of Karno, Mack 
Sennett in Hollywood was still signing up as many Karno- trained 
comedians as would come, absorbing them into the similar ritual 
of his Keystone Coppers series with Ford Sterling. To have been 
with Karno was a passport to the magical and dollar-laden world 
of film; and Chaplin had his passport before ever he set foot in 
America ! 



25 
c©k Pioneer Days in Film 

BY THE TIME CHAPLIN WAS EXPERIENCED ENOUGH TO TAKE OVER 

major roles in Karno's sketches, a difficult position had arisen 
concerning Karno's American companies, which toured similar 
programmes all over the United States and Canada under the manage- 
ment of Alfred Reeves. 

In 1910, Hollywood was stretching out rapacious arms to clutch 
at any actor or actress on the legitimate stage who might prove to 
be the stuff from which film stars are made overnight. In particular, 
there was a dearth of comedians. 

At this very early stage in film making there was no attempt to 
do more than turn the camera on a group of players using their 
normal stage technique. Film comedians were required to indulge 
in knockabout farce, as they would do in vaudeville or on the 
halls. 

Fred Karno's artistes, superbly trained, exactly filled Hollywood's 
bill, with the result that every few weeks, Karno lost another of his 
American company. Film contracts at undreamed of salaries dazzled 
them and swept them away, and members of the companies in 
England were sent out to replace those who entered films. Hollywood's 
maw was so insatiable that very soon Karno had to decide which 
of the Chaplin brothers he would send out on an American tour. 

The choice fell upon Charlie, for Karno found Syd invaluable, 
and wanted to keep him in England. He called the boy into his office 
to tell him of his new position, at a salary of £15 per week, a salary 
so princely that Charlie, just twenty-one, stared at him open-mouthed, 
and listened in stupefied silence while Karno reminded him of the 
fair conditions of work he always offered, of the way in which Charlie 
himself had been given every chance to develop his talent and reach 
the highest rungs of his profession. Karno then outlined the situation 
that had arisen in the United States, and urged Charlie to remember 
that he owed a certain loyalty to his employer: "Now look here, 
Charlie — see you don't go and do the same as the others. A fat 
contract can be tempting, but I've always been fair to you, now 
see you're fair to me." 

Charlie came out of his stupor to say very earnestly, and with 
•absolute sincerity : "Don't worry, Guv'nor ! I can't see myself trying 
to be funny in front of a camera. Not up my street at all ! " 

This certainty on his part helped him to resist the blandishments 
of the Hollywood scouts on the occasion of his first American tour. 
But it was also true that three years before, when he had been sent 
with one of Karno's companies to Paris, where he appeared at the 



26 

Cigale, and the Folies Bergeres, he had seen some of Max Linder's; 
films and had been enormously impressed by Linder's use of comedy 
technique. Now, on this first American tour, though he had not felt 
any desire to enter films himself, he was fascinated by the making 
of films when he came into contact with some of the pioneers who 
were groping their way towards a fuller realization of the new form 
of entertainment. 

Curiously enough, his own first film appearance was made just 
before he set out on his second, and fateful, tour of the States and 
Canada. He was at the time touring the Channel Islands, in August* 
1912; and it was in Jersey that a news cameraman, filming a carnival 
procession, included Chaplin in his shot of the crowd looking on. 

Two months later, he was on his way to America. While others of 
the company gossiped and gambled, flirted and played other deck 
games, Charlie mooched around by himself, leaning over the rails 
and staring into space or wrapping himself up in a remote corner 
to read or dream. The other members of the company were used to 
it, as they were used to his occasional wild bursts of noisy gaiety. 
He was a trouper, and he had his points even if he was inclined to 
go off by himself too much. 

Perhaps this time his desire for solitude came from a realization 
of changes pending, for later he described how he felt when the 
boat docked. "I shall never forget the extraordinary emotion I felt 
when the boat drew alongside the docks of New York. There we 
stood, fourteen young Englishmen. And I'm sure I was moved more 
than any of the others. I realized intuitively that I was going to 
achieve my destiny in America. I had so profound an inward 
assurance of this that I had to tell the others, with all the over- 
emphasis and conceit of callow youth. Raising my arm in salute to 
New York, I yelled "I give you fair warning, America! I'm coming 
to conquer you ! " 

Charlie was always good at histrionics, and this gesture must have 
amused his companions, and satisfied Charlie's sense of drama, though 
even he was not aware that his utterance was prophetic. 

The story of Chaplin's discovery by Mack Sennett — if indeed it 
was Mack Sennett and not his director, Adam Kessel — has achieved 
its legendary trimmings. There is however a persistent thread linking 
the several versions and it does seem more than probable that Chaplin 
owed his entry into films to the intransigeance of Ford Sterling, at 
that time Sennett's leading man. Sterling, aware of the shortage of 
film comedians and the increasing popularity of comic films, made 
frequent demands for bigger and better contracts with fabulous; 
salaries attached to them. Sennett, growing progressively more tired 



27 

of these excessive and persistent demands, looked about him for 
someone to replace Sterling. 

It was with all this in mind that he one day entered Pantage's 
Theater in Los Angeles, at a time when the management had booked 
one of Karno's companies. It so happened that the world-famous 
Mumming Birds was being shown. None of the characters in this 
sketch, which was given in America under the title of A Night in a 
London Music-Hall, had any names. Some were performers — a 
conjuror, a singer, a soubrette, a dramatic actor, and so forth — while 
others — the drunken dude, the dear old Uncle, the mischievous lad 
in the box — pretended to be members of the audience interfering 
with the performance, or manifesting their disapproval of it in various 
ways. When Sennett saw the sketch the young Chaplin, following in 
the footsteps of a long line of distinguished comedians, was playing 
the drunken reveller who hurled abuse and vegetables upon the 
performers, and who was always on the point of falling out of the 
box, from which vantage point he was supposed to be watching the 
show. 

Chaplin made such an impression on Mack Sennett that when 
increasing dissatisfaction with Ford Sterling compelled him to think 
seriously of doing without him, he sent the now famous wire to 
Adam Kessel, his director in New York: "Try to get hold of a 
bloke called Chapman, Caplin, or something, playing second circuit." 

Mack Sennett was at that time the director of Keystone Productions 
in Los Angeles, a branch of the New York Motion Picture Company. 
Bert Ennis was the manager of the company, and to him therefore 
fell the duty of raking America for the bloke called Chapman or 
Caplin. After several days spent going through recent numbers of 
theatre magazines — the Clipper, the Billboard and Variety, where 
he drew a blank, Ennis received news from his brother on the Bill- 
board staff, that the comedian he was seeking was a leading man 
in one of Karno's companies, and playing Philadelphia. Ennis there- 
fore cabled Alfred Reeves, who was able to give him all the details 
concerning the elusive "Caplin". 

Even then, Chaplin's entry into the film world was delayed while 
he hesitated to exchange the security of his work with Karno for 
an uncertain future in an unknown medium. The first offer made 
him was seventy-five dollars a week; but though he was tempted 
— he who had known and feared poverty — he still dared not take 
so enormous a risk. But the New York Motion Picture Company 
was determined to get Chaplin, and after considerable delay due to 
hesitation on both sides, Chaplin finally accepted a year's contract 
at one hundred and twenty-five dollars a week — nearly three times 



28 

as much as he was earning with Karno — to make films under the 
direction of Mack Sennett. 

Chaplin arrived in Los Angeles not knowing a soul there, except 
the door-keeper of a theatre where he had once played with the 
Karno troupe. It was typical of him to take a cheap room in an 
hotel just opposite that theatre. He then informed Mack Sennett of 
his arrival, but could not summon up enough courage to go to the 
studio and present himself to his new employer. A whole week went 
by before Chaplin could force himself to enter the studio. When 
he did, Sennett at once put him at ease, and advised him to wander 
round for a few days, and get used to the studio and its atmosphere. 

It seemed, when Chaplin made his first diffident entry into the 
alien world of the studio, that his engagement there was a catastrophe. 
His first few weeks were lonely and unhappy. The atmosphere was 
hostile to him, the manner of working antipathetic, and the company 
clearly regarded him as an intruder. Directors found no work for 
him; his colleagues watched him closely but did not speak to him, 
so that, plunged in deepest gloom, he presented badly both profes- 
sionally and socially, just as he had when he first became a member 
of Karno's company. 

Mack Sennett, who had staked everything on finding in Chaplin 
a worthy successor to Ford Sterling, must have been profoundly 
worried. "It was weeks", he said later, "before Charlie put over any- 
thing real. He tried all sorts of make-ups — one of them I remember 
was a fat man — and they were all about equally flat. As a matter of 
fact, for some time I felt more than a little uneasy as to whether 
my find was a very fortunate one ! " 

Eut gradually Chaplin found his feet — not only metaphorically, 
but actually. For from the moment he put on the costume of the 
little tramp with the enormous out-turned boots, he began to feel at 
ease before the camera, and to develop lines of comedy that made 
his colleagues look at him with new respect. 

In those early days, the Sennett studio was a small and informal 
place. Every member of the company shared in all the chores of film 
making from acting to cutting and washing the film strips. The small 
and primitive dressing rooms were social clubs, where everything 
under the sun could be endlessly discussed. 

One of the most important factors in Chaplin's new life was Mabel 
Normand, Sennett's leading lady, and a very fine comedienne. She 
was the first person to show any friendliness to the lonely young 
man, and the first to give him confidence in his abilities in film. 
She was herself a fine enough artist to realize that Chaplin could 
not at first find his own approach to the new medium, trammelled 



29 

as it already was by an almost inflexible conception of humour — that 
of slapstick farce, which Chaplin had already left a long way behind. 
She was also the first to see that when he did find his own line, he 
brought with him an entirely new form of imaginative comedy 
infinitely more subtle than anything yet known in comic films. 

Mabel Normand's dressing room was the only one that possessed 
an oil stove. And there, for hours on end, the twenty-three year old 
Chaplin in his natty checked suit would discuss with her their work, 
their future, life and art and books and all those things his mind 
had been filled with through the years of his adolescence. The others 
listened and commented, but it was Mabel's mind that matched 
his own, and to her he was speaking. Those were some of the 
happiest hours of his life, and though his work with her was tinged 
with a faint feeling of rivalry — she was more experienced in film 
work, and had an excellent comedy technique of her own, and was 
in addition a beautiful and vivacious girl — he enjoyed it, and made 
an excellent foil for her. 

But even Mabel's affection was sorely tried the day Sennett decided 
they should be filmed riding a motor-cycle, provided Charlie knew 
how to ride one. 

"Of course I do!" Charlie asserted scornfully. "I used to cycle 
all over London. What are you worrying about?" 

He mounted the motor-cycle, Mabel jumped on the pillion; and 
then the horrified onlookers saw the pair of them whizzing down a 
steep hill with the speed of an express train. It was perfectly clear 
that Charlie could not guide nor control nor stop the machine. 

No one knows what Charlie thought about as he hurtled down to 
destruction. Behind him, Mabel clung on grimly, her eyes closed 
against the terror of whirling trees and hedges and the inevitable 
doom. It came. 

Mabel was thrown headlong into a ditch; Charlie, battered and 
bruised, was discovered spreadeagled a few yards further along the 
the road. By a miracle, both escaped serious injury, and only the 
motor-cycle succumbed. Charlie's excuse, when he could speak, 
was that he hadn't realized there was any difference between a cycle 
and a motor-cycle. 

t©w Fame and Fortune 

MACK SENNETT'S CONTRIBUTION TO THE PIONEERING OF FILM 

comedy was unique. He, more than any other in America, increasingly 
moved from the theatrical representation of vaudeville skit and slap- 
stick farce towards the cinematic use of gesture, movement, and 



30 

shape. After a study of the work of Max Linder and Lucca in France, 
he had left the Biograph Studio to become director of the Keystone 
Productions. 

Once established, he began to put into practice the theories he had 
derived from the Continental school of film making, and produced 
comedies that were original in their blending of charm with burlesque 
— his Bathing Beauties and his Keystone Cops were symbolic of this 
blending. 

The Keystone Comedians, like those trained by Karno, drew upon 
the earliest essences of comedy for their effects — misunderstandings, 
disguises, enormous effort exerted for a result that never came off, 
violent anger over incidents that had never taken place, imagined 
slights that led to chaos, incongruity of person or situation. The 
sources of their comedy went back to the earliest known form of 
theatre; and that was the secret of their universal popularity, and the 
reason why Sennett found in Karno's comedians all that he wished 
for in his own. 

If Chaplin's first slice of luck in his career was his engagement 
by Karno, the second certainly was his work with Sennett. The 
latter, himself an innovator, allowed Chaplin to evolve his own line 
to a remarkable degree, always, of course, within the existing frame- 
work of the Keystone Comedy. 

In the year he spent at the Keystone Studio, Chaplin acquired 
the rudiments of his own special brand of comedy in terms of film; 
and, slowly, Charlie the little tramp began to emerge. One by one 
the endearing mannerisms crept in — the vertical salute of the little 
bowler hat, the turned-out feet, the trick of throwing a cigarette end 
over his shoulder and kicking it away. Both these last were taken 
from Fred Kitchen, a fine music-hall comedian who was also Karno- 
trained, and whom Chaplin watched with interest in his youth.* 

* Fred Kitchen died on April 1st, 1951. Footnote quotation from The 
Stage newspaper of April 5th, 1951 : 

One of the few remaining links with the old-time music-hall has gone with 
the death, last Sunday, of Fred Kitchen. Mr. Kitchen, who was 77 and 
died in a Hampton-hill nursing home, was discovered by Fred Karno more 
than fifty years ago. Large-hearted in his generosity of feeling and big 
physically, Fred Kitchen was the originator the catch-phrase "Meredith, 
we're in ! " — the last line of his famous music-hall sketch, "Moses and Son", 
which he toured for many years. He became a leading comedian for Fred 
Karno. He claimed to be the first comedian to wear outsize boots, and when 
asked why he never played in America, replied that everyone there would 
say he was imitating Charlie Chaplin. 

It was Mr. Kitchen who helped Chaplin when the Kennington boy was 
setting out on his professional career. Fred Kitchen, a master of mime 
himself, taught Chaplin the rudiments of this art. At seven he was earning 
a few shillings a week. But by 1918 his salary was £450 a week for 
appearances at the Folies Bergere in Paris. He did not often appear in the 



31 

By the time his year at Keystone was ended, Chaplin had made 
thirty-five comic films, conquered the American screen, found his 
artistic feet, and was possessed of an urgent desire to direct his own 
films. 

The beginning of 1915 found him with the Essanay Company, who 
had offered him one thousand dollars a week. The agent offering the 
contract was astounded to hear him demand a thousand and seventy- 
five. It was such an odd sum that the agent, case-hardened though 
he must have been, asked why he wanted just that much. 

"I need the extra seventy-five to live on", said Chaplin, as though 
explaining everything. 

"And the thousand?" 

"That's to go into safe bonds." 

His terror of a sudden return to the poverty he had known and 
escaped from was so acute that he intended to put away a thousand 
dollars every week. He did not believe that such good fortune as 
had already come his way could possibly last, he had no faith in 
his capacity to go on earning as such a rate; and he had calculated 
that a year at the salary offered by Essanay would save him from 
the worst menaces of poverty for the rest of his life if he invested 
his savings wisely. That was why he demanded the extra seventy-five 
to live on. 

In the fourteen films he made with Essanay, Chaplin developed 
along the lines he had already laid down. Charlie the little tramp 
was already established in the affections of the film-going public. 
Chaplin now for the first time added an undercurrent of pathos 
to the absurd adventures of his film self; and the public found him 
still more endearing. 

West End, the provinces being his theatre-home, but his gift as a player 
of sketches, his power to bring tears to the eyes of his audiences, and his 
robust, clean humour were celebrated throughout the world of music-hall. 

After he retired, in 1945, Mr. Kitchen seldom went to the theatre, though 
he continued to take a lively interest in his fellow-artists. He was one of 
the oldest members of the Grand Order of Water Rats. Mr. Kitchen expressed 
a wish that the words, "Meredith, we're in", should be engraved on his 
tombstone, which, it is understood, is to be done. 

Fred Kitchen, one of a family connected with the stage for more than 
a century, was born in 1873. His first appearance was at the Prince's, Ports- 
mouth, when he was carried on to the stage in his father's arms in "The 
Dumb Man of Manchester". His first important part was as a pageboy 
in "His Majesty's Guest", at the Princess's, Glasgow. He had a remarkable 
gift for touching his audiences with his depth of pathos, and was said to 
be one of the few actors able to cry real tears on the stage. There was a 
benefit for him at the Winter Garden, London, in 1945. Mrs. Kitchen died 
during the last war. 

Fred Kitchen, Junr., his son, carries on the family music-hall tradition, 
being an artist of personality and talent in his own right. 



32 

In one of them, The Bank, there is an incident that calls to 
mind the Karno sketch Jimmy the Fearless, in which Chaplin had 
appeared as a boy. There, the boy Jimmy awakes from his dream 
just as the heroine welcomes him. In The Bank the little janitor 
Charlie awakes from a similar dream of heroic deeds just as he is 
about to embrace his beloved; and finds himself kissing a mop. 

Chaplin by now, at the age of twenty-seven, and after only two 
years in films, was the most sought-after comedian in Hollywood, 
and had proved himself the Essanay company's most valuable asset. 

At the end of the year, he was offered a new contract at five 
thousand dollars a week. Chaplin, beside himself with excitement, 
rushed off to tell the staggering news to his half-brother Sydney, 
who had followed him to Hollywood. 

It was some time before Syd could understand the import of 
Charlie's incoherent shouting; but when he did, he simply said : "If 
you take my advice, you'll turn it down." 

"Turn it down?" 

"You'll be crazy to take it!" 

"I'll be crazy if I don't." 

"Look — if they offer you five thousand, you can bet your boots 
you're worth double. Don't be a mug ! " 

"Are you seriously suggesting I turn down a contract at five 
times the rate I'm getting already?" 

"I'm seriously suggesting you sit down and think it all out, without 
being had for a sucker! I should have thought you'd learned a bit 
of business sense by now ! " 

"So I have! Enough not to turn down a fat contract when I've 
got my hands on it! Who else is going to offer me terms like this?" 

All Charlie's intimates backed Syd's view, but Charlie was 
terrified of losing such excellent terms when no others might be 
offered. He was torn between rage at his brother's interference — for 
Syd forcibly restrained him from getting into contact with the 
Essanay directors, and set all his friends to watch him, and prevent 
him signing the contract — and an uneasy fear that Syd was right. 

Syd meantime had gone to New York as a self-appointed agent 
for his brother, to find out which other companies were prepared 
to make offers. He had the enormous satisfaction of proving himself 
right, of wiping the rage off his brother's face, and of earning a 
handsome commission. For Charlie, who never did anything by 
halves, was now as grateful for the interference as he had previously 
resented it. 

Charlie's new contract, with the Mutual Company, reached the 
hitherto unknown figure of ten thousand dollars a week, with a bonus 




Charles Spencer Chaplin 



The unknown music-hall 
artiste {Chaplin on the left) 




Triumphant Return, 1921 





Chaplin in Hollywood : 

with Douglas Fairbanks, Senior, D. W. Griffiths and Mary Pickford 




with Samuel Goldwyn, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Senior 




IMF 



Lita Grey 




Paulette Goddard 




Oona O'Neill 



A Happy Ending? 





At a premiere, with 

Paulette Goddard 
and Jackie Cooper 




With Orson Welles at a meeting held to support the opening of a 
Second Front (1942) 




"Open a Second Front 
Now" speech to Europe 
(1942) 




Watching mass picketing 
by strikers in Hollywood 




The Joan Barry Paternity Case (1943). Fingerprints taken 




Chaplin v. The United States. A word with Counsel 



41 

of a hundred and fifty thousand dollars. When he and Syd left the 
Mutual offices the day the contract was signed, Charlie was so dazed 
with awe and unbelief that he kept fingering the cheque for a hundred 
and fifty thousand dollars, as if to make sure that it really existed. 
"Let's celebrate! Oh boy! Let's celebrate! There's this, Syd— 
if they never give me another penny. I'm safe now ! " 

Then he halted suddenly. "All this money! And I can't think of 
anything to buy! What a waste!" 

The terms of this contract were so unprecedented at that time that 
Mary Pickford, his friend, and rival for place as first screen favourite, 
demanded similar terms for reasons of prestige: and film companies 
generally had no reason to bless the decision of the Mutual Company 
to offer Chaplin ten times the amount he was previously receiving. 
More important still from the point of view of his future, the 
Mutual contract carried with it artistic freedom. He was to make 
twelve films yearly, at the rate of one a month; and all the films he 
made for the company were scripted and directed by himself. 

All Charlie's fears and doubts returned in full force the day he 
first set foot in the Mutual Studio. He had no idea at all for his first 
film there, no theme, no incident, no inspiration; and the more he 
sought it, the more it eluded him. Executives, camera staff, actors 
and actresses were all ready and waiting. He looked at them with 
sick horror. He had nothing to give them. Nothing at all. 

Days passed by. The Mutual director wondered how to face the 
Board. The company grew bored, then apprehensive. Chaplin, 
wrapped in impenetrable gloom, paced the studio floor, disappeared 
into his office; and, when tracked down there by exasperated or 
desperate executives, was found staring blankly into space, with so 
unhappy an expression that they withdrew without having said a word. 
A whole week had gone by, when Chaplin entered one of the big 
Los Angeles stores and stood by a counter waiting his turn, watching 
the customers going up the moving stairway to the next floor. He 
began to see himself, a floorwalker in the store, trying to run down 
the stairs that were going up. 

Something like a hurricane or a thunderbolt came upon the crowded 
store. A small dark man bolted through the shoppers, out into the 
main thoroughfare, jumped into a cab, shouted the address, and 
talked happily to himself the whole way to the studio. 

Before the apathetic company was aware of what had happened, 
Chaplin was among them. His incredible vitality filled the studio, 
jerked them all into feverish activity. The lost week behind them for 
ever, Charlie set them to work upon The Floorwalker, one of his 
funniest Mutual films. 



42 

He had brought with him from Essanay Studios the lovely blonde 
Edna Purviance, whom he had first met early in 1915, when she 
was secretary to an industrial magnate in San Francisco. Chaplin at 
length persuaded her to throw in her fortunes with his, and she left 
the office for the film studio. At first, she was clumsy and self- 
conscious in her acting, and though in real life she was charming, 
on the screen she lacked any personality at all. But Chaplin, with 
infinite patience, made an artist of her, and one who responded to 
his least direction. She played the role of the beautiful heroine whom 
the little tramp Charlie adored from afar, without ever reaching his 
heart's desire. 

Though his reputation was firmly established and he was already 
known to millions on the screen, Chaplin knew few of the film colony 
of the time, among whom were numbered Owen Moore, Ruth Roland, 
D. W. Griffiths, Mabel Normand, Ford Sterling, Ben Turpin, Bessie 
Barriscale, Dustin Farmer, Charlie Ray, Chester Conklin, Fatty 
Arbuckle and Mack Swain. 

Among his intimates were Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, 
Sam Goldwyn and Mack Sennett, whom he saw fairly frequently. 
For the rest he lived an austere and solitary life in a bare six-roomed 
house, tended by a Japanese houseboy. 

He had not changed much from the morose lad of the Karno days, 
whose sudden bursts of gaiety, and superlative mimicry had both 
delighted and astonished his colleagues. Alone in his small house, 
he plunged into reading, catching up with the lost years. For a time 
he fell completely under the spell of the free thinkers, and filled 
his rooms with their pamphlets, booklets, and weightier tomes. He 
still read politics, economics, and what his friends called "all the 
gloomier philosophers" — Schopenhauer still keeping his first place. 
He also developed an inborn gift of being able to speak with authority 
and distinction on subjects that were not really familiar to him — some 
years later, on his first visit to Europe, the president of the Bank 
of England was impressed with his informed views on banking and 
international finance. None of his intimates knew where such know- 
ledge came from. 

Spells of solitude were suceeded by spells of happy sociability, 
when his vivacity and intelligence always attracted a number of people 
to him. On those occasions, he was the most excellent companion — 
witty, ebullient, endearing, and capable of entertaining large 
gatherings with his spontaneous mimicry — of a classical dancer, a 
hotel magnate, an old street vendor, a young girl listening to her 
first proposal. He could keep any group of people enthralled for as 
long as he chose, his own energy never flagging. 



43 

As he reached the peaks, so he touched the depths; and there were 
days when he neither saw nor spoke to anyone round him, sometimes 
leaving the studio suddenly and without warning, to spend the day 
walking all over Hollywood, wrapped in unfathomable darkness. Sam 
Goldwyn, famous as much for his astonishingly original use of the 
English language as for his pioneer work in film, was one of Chaplin's 
few intimates, and he seems to have understood his complexity with 
amazing insight. He said of Chaplin: "His reaction to life is, you 
see, intensely personal, intensely emotional. Chaplin loves to talk about 
government and economics and religion. When Rupert Hughes came 
out to Hollywood he and Charlie were much given to what somebody 
calls 'topics' — just topics. Nothing could have been more illuminating. 
While Hughes conducted his side of the discussion in a spirit of 
dispassionate inquiry, the less scientifically trained mind of the 
comedian struck out with a poet's frenzy at everything which he 
did not like. One could see it was not really abstract truth which he 
desired. It was the theory which most successfully represented his 
own prejudice." 

By this time Edna Purviance was so firmly established in Chaplin's 
life and work that she was accepted without comment or scandal, 
and soon acquired a number of friends in the film colony, as well 
as a considerable reputation in films. With the series he made for 
the Mutual Company, Chaplin not only reached a great peak in his 
own work and put himself at the head of the film world; but in 
them he set down some of the fundamental laws of cinema, and 
comedy in film. 

He worked himself to a standstill over every film. When, for 
example, the shooting of the Immigrant was finished, Chaplin spent 
four days and four nights, without sleep or rest or more than a 
mouthful of food, cutting and assembling the film, until he was 
satisfied with it. By which time, more than nine-tenths of the original 
length had been discarded. When he had finished, he looked like a 
drunken tramp, dirty, dishevelled, with a four-days' beard, his hair 
on end, his collar hanging by a thread, his eyes sunken through lack 
of sleep. He could hardly keep on his feet; but the film was finished. 

When his contract with the Mutual company expired, he was 
inundated with offers from all the major American companies, and 
Mutual offered him still more favourable terms. 

By now, Chaplin was fully aware of his commercial value, and 
together with his artistry had developed his business acumen. In June, 
1917 therefore he accepted the unprecedented conditions offered by 
the First National Company — the famous million dollar contract for 
eight films of any length, to be made within eighteen months. So 



44 

much now was he his own master that early in 1918 he began to 
build his own studio on La Brea Avenue, where all his subsequent 
films have been made to date. 

At the age of twenty-eight Chaplin was on top of the world, with 
enough money behind him to scare away the bogey of poverty for 
ever, with freedom to shape his career according to his own creative 
impulse, with a loyal and utterly devoted partner in Edna Purviance, 
and a degree of universal fame and popularity that no one in the 
history of mankind had ever before achieved. 

t@^ Marriage and Divorce 

Chaplin's popularity was due in some measure to the time at 
which his first films appeared. The 1914-18 World War was spreading 
its ugly tentacles over Europe, and reaching out desperately towards 
America. Soldiers and civilians alike suffered from warfare on a vaster 
scale than any known before, waged with more lethal weapons, and 
already engendering far-reaching consequences. Soldiers and civilians 
alike were enduring the domestic and economic upheaval that comes 
with war, the personal and social suffering, the monotony and the 
agony, the frustration and the sorrow. 

Charlie was a godsend. His comedy sent a light to pierce the 
gloom; his absurd and fantastic misfortunes released the mind from 
greater misfortunes; his pathos was an outlet for grief. He was able 
to convulse his audiences with healthy, happy laughter. He was a 
tonic and a katharsis at a time when both were desperately needed. 

More than this, the endearing little tramp was Everyman, and when 
Shoulder Arms was released at the end of the war, there was not a 
soldier who did not recognize the truth of this revelation of the bore- 
dom and monotony of war, even while he rocked in his seat with the 
hilarious comedy it contained; there was not a woman present who 
did not see, in the lonely little soldier to whom no one wrote nor 
ever sent a parcel, the heart of the desolation she had endured for so 
long. 

The war itself influenced Chaplin's reputation in another and 
subtler way. It was impossible for him to have achieved such fame so 
rapidly without acquiring detractors among his envious competitors; 
and an insidious campaign began in the press suggesting that Chaplin 
was skulking in Hollywood, enjoying himself, when he should be at 
the front. When, in 1917, America entered the war, thousands of 
angry letters were received, from England and the United States, all 
indignant because he had not joined up, some even threatening 
him. And at the same time he was wildly denounced in the press. War 



45 

brings its own hysteria, and people in the public eye always suffer 
from the malice of their fellow men. 

In Chaplin's case, the opprobrium was unmerited. When war was 
declared, Chaplin and other British members of the studio, had im- 
mediately volunteered. Nothing happened until Chaplin had pestered 
the British Ambassador in Washington several times; and then he was 
not passed by the army doctors. 

None of his detractors paid any attention to the facts of the case, 
and the outcry in the press reached such serious proportions that 
Chaplin was forced to make a public statement. He did so with a logic 
and dignity that could not appeal to the prejudices of the war-minded, 
white-feather patriots, but did reach reasonable and just citizens. He 
asserted his willingness to serve if he were ever called upon to do so, 
derided the hysteria that supposed he was shirking when in fact he 
had not been accepted, and asserted his conviction that his present 
efforts to serve his country — he had nearly killed himself with the 
active part he had played in the Defence Loan Campaign — together 
with his film work, was of more value to the community than his 
presence in the trenches as a Tommy of poor physique. 

He also pointed out sardonically that he could, had he wished, have 
enjoyed a vast amount of publicity at the time he had volunteered, 
but, he said with dignity, "All that I have done, all that I am doing, 
all that I intend to do, to prove my devotion to the cause of demo- 
cracy, had not been and will not be publicly exploited." 

As a result of this statement, letters poured in from all over the 
world, assuring him of the value of his work, both in the studio, and 
on the platform at the exhausting public meetings where he helped 
to raise enormous sums of money for the war effort. There was a 
universal demand that he be left in peace; and, in effect, he was never 
called up. 

It was his first experience of press persecution, and he was appalled 
and angered by it. There was nothing then to tell him that it would 
be his portion for the rest of his life, growing more violent and more 
widespread as the years went by. 

Suddenly and unexpectedly, in September, 1917, Chaplin married 
Mildred Harris, a fifteen year old film extra. Chaplin, volatile, 
emotional, and with an inward loneliness that nothing could assuage, 
was always immediately attracted by beautiful young women. Mildred 
Harris was very young and very beautiful, with shining golden hair 
and candid blue eyes, and Chaplin was immediately captured by her. 
But not even his intimates, not even his brother Syd, had realized that 
his infatuation was more than a momentary worship of the beauty 
he could never resist. 



46 

They had watched, with amusement or alarm, as Chaplin the great 
film star sent flowers daily to the little film extra, invited her to dine 
with him, and waited for hours in his car outside the studio where 
she was engaged. Yet in spite of this ardent courtship, his marriage 
came as a shock to his friends. 

The marriage was bound to end in disaster. Chaplin was too subtle 
and complex a person to be able to live in harmony with a child who 
had no single taste in common with him, no point of character that 
met his, and an undeveloped mind that could not reach his own. 
There was the shining golden hair, the wonderful eyes, the youth that 
had englamoured him, but nothing more. And for her there was the 
impossibility of understanding and appreciating a personality beyond 
her experience. They had a child, which died; and in two years, Mrs. 
Chaplin gave up her hopeless struggle, and sued for divorce, which 
was granted her. 

Chaplin, as always, refused to give any information to an eager 
press, and endured in silence the calumnies and scurrilities that were 
published. Miss Harris tried vainly to explain why she found it im- 
possible to live with Chaplin, and earned pity in some quarters, and 
condemnation as a little gold digger in others. Whatever may have 
been her reason for entering into the marriage, her statements to her 
lawyers and the press reveal the alarming incompatibility between her 
husband and herself. 

She told how Chaplin would leave her alone for hours on end, while 
he went down to the beach and stared moodily at the sea, never mov- 
ing; how he would seem sometimes not to be aware of her at all, not 
answering when she spoke. Or he would turn to music for hours at a 
stretch, utterly absorbed, while she sat by. ignored and unwanted. He 
was always charming and kind when she was ill, but never concerned 
about her reactions to the times he absented himself for days on end, 
without warning, without explanation; or the effect upon her nerves 
of his silence and his withdrawal into his own melancholy. 

All this is evidence of an unbridgeable chasm, with suffering on both 
sides. Mildred Harris married Cinderella's Prince, only to have him 
transformed into a moody creative genius beyond her ken, while 
Chaplin married a dream, and found nothing when he woke. He was 
too absorbed in his work, too caught up with the processes of his 
creative impulse, to be even aware that his wife was in fact a real 
person requiring rather more attention than he gave her, and young 
enough to be eager for amusement. 

There is an ironic revelation of the gulf between them in an inci- 
dent that took place when Chaplin accompanied Sam Goldwyn to a 
Los Angeles hospital to see a friend, some time after the divorce. 



47 

Chaplin wandered about on his ov/n while Goldwyn was with his 
friend, and found his way into a little sitting room. It contained a 
vast number of books, all obviously belonging to someone who enjoyed 
poetry, novels and literary criticism of the highest intellectual order, 
and Chaplin examined them with interest. A nurse came enquiringly 
towards him, obviously not recognizing him. 

"Whose room is this?" said Chaplin. 

"This? Oh, it's being used by Mrs. Mildred Harris Chaplin. Those 
are her books." 

"So this is what she reads." 

"Oh, no. The books she reads are in the locker in her bedroom." 
And they both laughed, for very different reasons. 

Chaplin was forced henceforward to live his private life, to a very 
large extent, in the public eye. And his public life was also everybody's 
business. Everyone, from society women to young film extras, who 
wanted a successful career in films laid seige to him, and many went 
to the most extravagant lengths to secure publicity, or an engagement, 
through him. 

There was one who arranged her own kidnapping in an attempt 
to bring herself more firmly to Chaplin's notice; there were others who 
fought to be photographed with him, who inserted notices in the press 
coupling his name with theirs. Chaplin began to feel like an unwilling 
Haroun al Raschid. His whole life was lived henceforward under the 
unremitting glare of constant publicity; and that part of the price he 
had to pay for his celebrity irked him considerably. He had accepted, 
as part of his position, the demands of normal publicity. But the 
excessive prying into his everyday concerns, the impossibility of 
achieving for more than a few moments either privacy or solitude, 
both of which he had always urgently needed, were a heavy and 
unexpected cross to bear. 

But, however unpleasant the incessant demands of would-be film 
stars, hangers-on and socialities, however wearisome the incessant pub- 
licity, whatever his private tragedy, Chaplin could always turn with 
relief to his work. Once he had started a film, his absorption in it was 
so complete that he was unaware of anything outside its orbit. 

Some time after his divorce, he was busily engaged upon The Kid, 
one of the best-remembered of his early films, and one which made a 
star overnight of a little boy of seven. 

^ The Wonderful Visit 

THOUGH ALL THE SUBSTANCE OF CHAPLIN'S FILMS, AS WE SHALL SEE 

later, is subjective, and much of its incident drawn from his own 



48 

experiences, The Kid stands alone in that it is as autobiographical as 
David Copperfield was for Dickens. 

His own poverty-stricken childhood, his need of his mother, his 
desolation when he was snatched from her, the background of want 
and insecurity he had lived through were reproduced in the film, and 
shared between Charlie and his adopted waif. 

Chaplin loved children, as all emotional and sensitive men do, but 
they terrified him. Their directness, their simplicity, above all their 
assurance, made him feel conscious of his shortcomings; and he found 
it difficult to talk naturally and simply to them. 

But Chaplin's relationship with Jackie Coogan, the child of the 
film, was one of the happiest and most successful of his life. He made 
the small boy into an artist as he had made Edna Purviance into an 
artist, with infinite patience and tenderness and tact, and an exact 
knowledge of the end he had in view. 

Charlie's tremendous protective love of The Kid in the film was 
based on the truth of Chaplin's love for the child in real life; and 
Jackie Coogan adored the man who took him into the fantastic world 
of film. 

There was a moment when Chaplin was directing Jackie in one of 
the most pathetic incidents in the film — the scene in which he is torn 
from Charlie's arms when they are hiding from the officials who are 
seeking them out. Jackie had astounding dramatic talent, and his real 
life relationship with Chaplin lent such poignancy to the scene as 
Jackie rehearsed it that quite suddenly Chaplin pushed the child into 
his father's arms, — "You'll have to take over! I simply can't stand it! 
I can't stand it!" 

And Coogan senior was astounded to see that Chaplin was himself 
almost in tears, cursing and muttering to ward off the breakdown the 
child had provoked in him. 

When The Kid was released, it was hailed throughout the world as 
Chaplin's finest film; and it is still regarded as one of the best he ever 
made. It was universally successful. Yet, when it was just finished, 
Chaplin himself was utterly despondent about it, and fearful of the 
reaction of the critics. In this mood of discouragement, he asked Sam 
Goldwyn to come and see it, and advise him on its improvement. 
Sam, who profoundly admired Chaplin's work, went that very 
day. Even he was not prepared for the impact of the film, and the 
enormous progress made since A Dog's Life, Shoulder Arms and 
Sunnyside, the outstanding films previously made for First 
National. 

As Goldwyn roared with laughter, wiped away a surreptitious tear, 
moved in his seat in ecstatic delight, or remained still in moments of 



49 

deep emotion, Chaplin watched his reactions with incredulous eyes, 
in which a faint hope dawned. 

When the lights went up again, Goldwyn was silent, while poor 
Charlie fidgeted beside him and grew sick with despair. "Charlie— if 
this is the last picture you were ever destined to make, you'd go down 
into history with it." 

"Gosh! — You're not just cheering me up? You do honestly think 
it's good?" 

"Listen — what you've got is a bad attack of movie blues! Try it 
out on some others. I'll give a dinner over at my studio, and we'll 
show it afterwards." 

"Maybe. But if you're going through with it, you'd better sec it's 
a good dinner — they'll need it ! " 

Goldwyn never has done things by halves. Among those invited to 
his excellent dinner on this occasion were Somerset Maugham, Edward 
Knoblock, Elinor Glyn, Rupert Hughes, Rex Beach, Elsie Ferguson, 
Pauline Frederick and Sir Gilbert Parker. 

As the film wound its length, Chaplin, petrified with mingled terror 
and timidity, sat huddled on the fringe of the crowd. But of all the 
private previews Goldwyn had either given or attended, there had 
never before been one like this. Chaplin nearly disappeared beneath 
the onslaught. Every woman present wanted to kiss him, every man 
slapped him on his aching back, and never before in his wholly 
successful film career had he been complimented so sincerely in such 
glowing terms. All the women had wept, and some of the men. Chap- 
lin, bathed in their tears, warmed by their kisses, shattered by their 
backslapping and their almost frantic admiration and excitement, 
turned pale and giddy. 

It was Elinor Glyn who released the tension. Soulfully she said, in 
her grandest manner, "This is the finest film I have ever seen in my 
life!" 

"Have you seen many?" 

"Well— no. This is my first." 

Once The Kid was well launched on its meteoric career, and Chap- 
lin's misgivings about it set at rest, he began work on his next film, 
The Idle Class, finished it in record time, and started another immedi- 
ately. The sets were built, the actors engaged and in attendance for a 
big scene, made up and in costume. A hundred extras were dressed 
and ready, in addition. At that moment, Chaplin decided to go to 
Europe, in spite of the waiting crowd, and the four months' work 
already put in on the film. Nothing could move him from his decision 
— persuasion, cajolery, anger, the thought of wastage. He blandly 
announced that he was going; and went. Apparently "A steak and 



50 

kidney pie, influenza and a cablegram were the triple alliance that is 
responsible for the whole thing," in the words that opened his lively 
book, My Wonderful Visit, the book he afterwards wrote concerning 
this first trip to Europe since he became famous. 

Having started the film, he had found himself tired, ill, and de- 
pressed after a bout of influenza. In this mood, he accepted an invita- 
tion to dine at the home of Montagu Glass, who enticed him with 
steak and kidney pie; and the homely dinner party roused nostalgia, 
and made him restless. On his return, a cablegram from London was 
waiting for him, urging him to attend the premiere of The Kid, and 
quite suddenly he made up his mind to go. It seemed the answer to 
everything that was troubling him; and he had never yet attended a 
premiere of one of his films outside America. 

His excitement as his boat docked at Southampton was enormous, 
and tinged with uncertainty and apprehension — he did not know how 
he would be received, after so long. He was used to being enthusiasti- 
cally mobbed whenever he made a public appearance in the States. 
But this was his own country, and he the young Cockney lad returning 
after many years. 

Nothing prepared him for the incredible reception he received in 
London; he was almost overborne by a mob that struggled and fought 
to reach him, that shouted blessings and messages of love and affec- 
tion, that welcomed him as their own, returned at last, and greatly 
loved. He was moved to terror, and to a pleasure so intense that he 
could not contain it, but, catching excitement from the crowd, he 
began to throw down among them the flowers clustering everywhere in 
his rooms at the Ritz. In a moment, the police came to beg him not 
to, for fear of accidents, the crowd was so congested and so deter- 
mined to get one of these souvenirs. 

Mixed with his delight in such evidence of popularity was shame 
that he should have done so little to deserve it, and a desire to escape 
from it for a while. 

It is typical of him that the very first thing he did after his arrival 
was to creep out by the back way and to go straight to Kennington, 
on a solitary pilgrimage that covered all the haunts of his youth. It 
made an extraordinary impression upon him. Part of him went out to 
the old familiar things; part shuddered in horror away from the 
memory of them. Above all, he realized that he had gone too far away 
in time and in condition ever to get back, however much he desired it, 
however hard he tried. 

"Almost every step brought back memories, most of them of a 
tender sort. I was right here in the midst of my youth, but somehow I 
seemed apart from it. I felt as though I was viewing it under a glass. 



51 

It could be seen all too plainly, but when I reached to touch it it was 
not there — only the glass could be felt, this glass that had been glazed 
by the years since I left. If I could only get through the glass, and 
touch the real live thing that called me back to London. But I 
couldn't." 

Later, he took some of his friends to one or two of the haunts of 
his childhood, including one of the dingy attics where once he had lived 
with Syd and his mother. Worm-eaten stairs with a creaking greasy 
banister led to a small dark room lit by an oil lamp and furnished 
with the barest necessities. Crumbling walls, a sullen fire on the small 
hearth, an indescribable atmosphere of poverty and want struck them 
all into silence while Chaplin, with trembling lips and tear-filled eyes, 
stared into the past. Almost immediately, with a sudden change of 
mood, he was looking for the hole in the floor through which he and 
Syd in turns watched the woman below undressing. He chatted for a 
while with the present tenant, a bedridden old lady, and when they 
all left, he made a pretext for returning, and slipped some money 
into her hand, knowing to the last farthing what it would mean to 
her; so small a sum now to the boy from Kennington; such unimagin- 
able wealth to the old lady who lived there still. 

At the other end of the scale was as fantastic a social life. Chaplin 
discovered that he was the most sought-after man in London, with an 
entree to the most distinguished houses, a welcome guest, accepted on 
equal terms with the greatest personalities of the time in literature, 
politics, art and society. It was on this visit that he began one of his 
rare lasting friendships — with Sir Philip Sassoon. It was a real re- 
lationship of a kind that have been few indeed in Chaplin's life. 

He met, in the course of his visit, E. V. Lucas, J. M. Barrie, Squire 
Bancroft, Bruce Bairnsfather, Thomas Burke, H. G. Wells, Gerald du 
Maurier, St. John Ervine and Lady Astor, and was royally entertained 
by them. 

It was an exhausting and enthralling visit. On the one hand, the 
nostalgia of the past, on the other the continuous social engagements; 
throughout, the colossal evidence of astonishing fame and popularity. 
His fan mail was so enormous that numerous secretaries were called 
in to deal with it. In the first three days of his visit he received 
seventy-three thousand letters and cards; over a third of them were 
begging letters. And he discovered from them that he had nearly seven 
hundred relatives in London that he knew nothing about, nine of 
whom claimed to be his mother. 

He was entirely captured by the charms of The Albany, where 
Knoblock had an apartment. The dignity and grandeur of the old 
building, its historic associations, impressed him, as did Knoblock's 



52 

apartment itself. But his genuine appreciation did not prevent him 
from carrying out, in that setting, an elaborate joke on Tom Geraghty, 
formerly Douglas Fairbanks' scenario writer, at this time a free-lance, 
and one of Chaplin's oldest friends. 

There was a small crowd in Knoblock's apartment one night, and 
gradually conversation turned on Chaplin. Nearly all present agreed 
that he was really at the apex of his career, and that the London visit 
proved it. Tom Geraghty, with simple sincerity, suggested that the 
only thing to do, when such a peak was reached, was to die, since 
anything afterwards was bound to be an anti-climax and therefore 
inartistic. 

Outside, a thunderstorm was raging, with sheets of lightning flash- 
ing across the dark sky; and together, Chaplin and Knoblock began 
to build an eerie atmosphere of tension and dread, helped by the gale 
rattling the window frames, the storm without, and a preoccupation 
with death, violence and the inexplicable force of nature in their 
conversation. Suddenly, a great flash of lightning turned every face 
livid, etched in the dark shadows of cupboard and corner. Chaplin, 
jerked suddenly to his feet as though by invisible forces, let out an 
eldritch shriek, grew rigid and fell upon his face. 

There was a frightening silence, then confusion. Someone tele- 
phoned for a doctor, others carried the stiffened body into an adjoin- 
ing bedroom, while Tom Geraghty was petrified with shock, and then 
overcome with anxiety. No one paid any attention to him, everyone 
rushed busily round, summoning a coroner, getting into touch with 
the police, while Geraghty's panic grew. 

When Chaplin, enfolded in the sheet, with pillowcases for wings, 
floated into the room as an angel, Geraghty's panic turned to furious 
anger. 

"It's blasphemy, that's what it is, blasphemy ! Blaspheming death ! " 
he roared. Never were angel's wings so securely clipped : and hence- 
forward, in the circle of Chaplin's friends, that incident was referred 
to as the blaspheming death. 

The same impulse that had taken Chaplin, without warning, across 
the Atlantic, took him as suddenly to Paris. Here, Chaplin found him- 
self spiritually at home. The quicker tempo of living, the whole 
vibrant atmosphere of the lovely city answered something in him, and 
he was at once at ease. His French name — Chariot — pleased him 
enormously, and he signed it with elaborate flourishes whenever 
autograph-hunters approached him. 

His fame and popularity in Paris were as great as in London, and 
his entry into the city was a repeat performance of his entry into 
London. His old friend Cami, the cartoonist, was there to greet him. 



53 

The two famous men had corresponded for years, exchanging sketches 
and photographs. But this was the first time they had ever met, and 
their meeting was complicated by the fact that Chaplin spoke no 
French, Cami no English. 

With Waldo Frank, Dudley Malone, and others, he went to the 
Lapin Agile and there enjoyed what he called "an evening of rare- 
ness" — due mainly to the haunting beauty of the playing of the 
violinist Rene Chedecal, and the atmosphere of intelligent creative 
power that was wrapped around the place. 

After the exhilaration of Paris and his reception there, his visit to 
Germany was at first disappointing — for his films had not reached 
that country and he was unknown there — and later compensated for 
by his meeting with Pola Negri at the Palais Heinroth, Berlin's most 
exclusive and expensive night club of the period. They were immedi- 
ately attracted to each other. If Mildred Harris had been typical of 
one kind of woman whom Chaplin always found attractive, Pola Negri 
represented to the highest degree the other type of woman he was 
always drawn towards. 

She was a Pole, extremely beautiful in a subtle and exotic way, a 
sophisticated and experienced woman of the world. From their first 
meeting, they were inseparable; and what had seemed at first the least 
exciting part of his European tour was transformed by her advent. 
She opened for him the great houses of Berlin, and he achieved the 
same social distinction he had already enjoyed in London and Paris. 

On one occasion, he was present with her at a formal dinner in one 
of the great baroque palaces abounding. His total ignorance of Ger- 
man forced him into so many gaffes — as when he joined in the toast 
to himself, or toasted the wrong bride-to-be that, by the time he was 
called upon to make a speech, he had lost his nerve entirely. 

He rose to his feet, a very small man at a very large banquet, 
licking dry lips, and praying for speedy death. Suddenly, he caught 
sight of Pola Negri further down the vast table, her large dark eyes 
fixed upon him in understanding and amusement, her mouth curved 
in the slightest smile. As though she had opened the way for him, he 
began to mime his speech. Not a single word came from him; there 
was a profound silence in the vast hall, until, at a signal from him, the 
Russian musicians launched themselves into wildest Cossack music. 
Chaplin, bringing his mimed speech to its silent peroration, left his 
seat and danced. He danced to his hostess, his host, the betrothed 
couple for whom the dinner was given, and finished his dance on his 
knees before Pola Negri, kissing her outstretched hand. Sober Teutons 
shouted and clapped and yelled for more; a society famous for its 
rigidly conventional behaviour, its unbreakable shibboleths, took to its 



54 

suddenly illuminated bosom the little man who had made, through 
mime and dancing, the most eloquent and brilliant after-dinner speech 
they had ever heard. 

Exhausted, stimulated and deeply satisfied, Chaplin, after a few 
days more in Paris and a hasty farewell visit to London, set out for 
home. He had made his conquest of Europe, recovered from his 
period of depression, and left behind notable friends who would gladly 
welcome him again with the same fervour whenever he returned to 
Europe. 

It was hard to leave Pola Negri. Later, when she announced her 
intention of taking up film work in Hollywood, he was able to arrange 
considerable advance publicity for her, which helped her in her 
rapid rise to fame on the American screen. When she came, 
they were once more inseparable, reputed engaged, said to have 
parted, reputed engaged again, finally going their separate ways. 

As soon as Chaplin set foot on American soil again, he was beseiged 
with magnificent offers to write an autobiographical narrative of his 
visit. Chaplin the canny business man accepted the best offer, and 
dictated the forty-thousand word book on his train journey across 
America. His enthusiasm and excitement were so intense that the book 
was finished by the time the train reached Salt Lake City. Chaplin 
was paid twenty-five thousand dollars for My Wonderful Visit, a sum 
which helped considerably to defray the expenses of the trip. 

The book is well worth reading for its revelation of Chaplin's per- 
sonality, his artist's reaction to the people he met, the adventures he 
had, and the astonishing effects of returning to his own land as the 
most famous celebrity of his time. 

The day of his return from Europe, he dashed straight to Goldwyn's 
office, and plunged into a vivid description of his triumphal tour. 
Goldwyn sat back comfortably to witness a one-man show of no mean 
order, while Chaplin acted and mimed the whole tour for his benefit, 
playing all parts, assuming all nationalities, using all voices, and re- 
creating, in a Hollywood office, the total impact of his Wonderful 
Visit. 

i©^ Public Success and Private Disaster 

FOR SOME TIME AFTER HIS RETURN HE WAS RESTLESS, UNABLE TO 

settle, and enduring what one of his secretaries called "the incubating 
period", when he was seeking and rejecting ideas, then brooding over 
the one that appealed to him as the theme for his next film — in this 
case The Pilgrim, the last film he was to make for the First National 
Company. 



55 

The film was largely directed against Anglo-American puritanism, 
always a source of fecund satire for Chaplin, and particularly so in 
this case since his divorce from Mildred Harris had unleashed a flood 
of scurrilous stories concerning him, which had even extended to the 
recent arrival of his mother in California. 

Though Chaplin's early and close devotion to his mother had 
naturally been changed through his long-continued absence from Eng- 
land, he had never failed to surround her with every luxury his now 
comfortably large purse could buy, to make up for the lean and 
terrible years of his boyhood, when she had nearly died under the 
struggle. When he decided, for the sake of her health, to bring her to 
California, he was subjected to more of the calumny he had grown to 
expect from certain sections of the press. 

It was said that he had refused to pay the expenses of her journey, 
so that she had been obliged to travel steerage. She was, therefore, so 
it was reported, interned on Ellis Island and refused admission to 
America, being without visible means of support. And it was only 
upon the intervention of a lawyer that her unworthy son, against his 
will, sent just enough money to release her. 

The facts were exactly opposite. Hannah Chaplin had travelled 
luxuriously, with a nurse and a companion in constant attendance. 
Her meeting with her son was made more moving because she did not 
realize at all he was a world-famous figure; and to the day of her 
death she did not know of his world-conquest. 

He had bought for her a most beautiful house at Santa Monica, 
facing the sea, and there installed her with her nurse and companion, 
and every luxury and comfort an invalid could desire or need. He 
was adversely criticised when these facts were made known, because 
he continued to live in his own house, while Syd occupied one beside 
the studio on La Brea Avenue. The press clearly felt cheated of a 
charming family picture. 

Chaplin suffered acutely under this barrage, which overwhelmed 
him at a time of anxiety and preoccupation. He was intensely worried 
about his mother's health, since it was clear that she was failing. At the 
same time he was absorbed in plans to establish the United Artists 
Corporation, an independent company he intended to form with his 
old friends Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D. W. Griffiths. 
This was his final effort to secure absolute independence in his work, 
as in that of those who were associated with him. Some part of the 
originality of his film work has been due to his foresight in securing 
total independence before the American film industry turned into a 
vast factory. 

His anxieties, domestic and business, were relieved by the arrival in 



56 

Hollywood of Peggy Hopkins Joyce, a dynamic personality with the 
sophistication and chic of Pola Negri, but without her subtlety. Dur- 
ing their short and tempestuous friendship, Peggy told Chaplin her 
life story, at a moment when he was looking for a theme for his first 
United Artists film. 

He had long wished to make a serious film; and his increasing belief 
in the powers of Edna Purviance, who through all the vicissitudes of 
his private and public life, had remained beside him, made him want 
to use her as star in it. Gradually was evolved the idea of a film about 
a brilliant woman of the world; and soon Chaplin was feverishly at 
work on A Woman of Paris, which was to some degree the cinematic 
interpretation of incidents in the life of Peggy Hopkins Joyce. 

When the film was released in 1923, it was at once censored in 
fifteen states of America, and met with more adverse criticism than 
any other of his films had ever achieved. Its pessimism was a shock 
to a public captured by the comedy and pathos of Charlie the little 
tramp. 

The repercussion of the film upon those who took part in it had an 
irony of its own. It made Adolphe Menjou, who played the leading 
male role, into a star. It finished the career of Edna Purviance, who 
was to have been made a star through it. 

Adolphe Menjou achieved immediate success with the role he 
played in A Woman of Paris, and sustained with minor deviations ever 
after — the wealthy man-about-town, assured, sophisticated, debonair 
— at once the quintessence of a type, and the secret dream of millions 
of women starved of glamour, who had never known sophistication in 
their own lives. While Edna Purviance sank into obscurity because, as 
far as her public was concerned, she was profoundly miscast. For 
them, she had been, since the early Essanay films, the incarnation of 
beauty and goodness, simplicity and truth, the ideal of womanhood 
understandably adored by Charlie. They could not accept her as a 
sophisticate, a "fallen woman", in the idiom of the genre. 

With this film, the long association between Chaplin and Edna 
Purviance ended as suddenly as it had begun. He never used her in a 
film again, and after a few attempts at work in other studios she 
vanished from the world of cinema, and died some years later in acute 
poverty, unhonoured and unsung. Part of her tragedy was that in this 
film she showed considerable distinction as an actress. 

For Chaplin, the film was an artistic rather than a financial success, 
and added to his reputation as a director of original films. As soon as 
it was launched, Chaplin turned to a subject that had long since cap- 
tured his imagination — the Klondyke gold rush. The ideas that for 
a long time had been simmering now came to the forefront of his 




The Man who made the Films 

E 




The character he created 



Making a Living 
(February, 1914) 




The New Janitor 
(September, 1914) 




Dough and Dynamite 
(October, 1914) 




The Vagabond 
(July, 1916) 




Easy Street 
(January, 1917) 




The Cure 

(April, 1917) 





The Kid (1921) 




The Kid (1921) 




A Woman of 
Paris (1923) 




The Gold Rush (1925) 




The Gold Rush (1925) 




The Love Look. City Lights (1931) 




Money a Mixed Blessing. City Lights (1931) 




The Saddest Film with the Funniest Gags. The Circus (1925) 



65 

mind, and he determined to make the film, even though it proved 
impossible to make it in Alaska, since the conditions of work there 
were too difficult. 

Now that Chaplin was determined, no obstacle could be allowed to 
stand in his way, not even the geographical contours of the land. He 
transported his entire company, executives and apparatus, to the 
Rocky Mountains, and there re-built the Klondyke. A pathway 2,300 
feet long, with an ascent of 1,000 feet was cut, at a height of nearly 
10,000 feet, to make the Chilkoot Pass in the Klondyke. That part of 
the film-making cost £12,000 and the production costs were £200,000. 
a fabulous sum in the film world of 1924. 

For his leading lady in this film, to be called The Gold Rush, Chap- 
lin had chosen an extremely beautiful sixteen year old, Lolita Mac- 
Murray. A few years before, she had been one of the child angels in 
the dream sequence of The Kid; then Chaplin, looking round for his 
lead in the Klondyke film, noticed her again, fell wildly in love with 
her, gave her a screen test, and offered her the lead. As Lita Grey, she 
signed the contract. 

Once that part of the business was concluded, Mrs. MacMurray 
practically assumed possession of the studio. A dominant, aggressive 
woman, with her daughter's material interests very much at heart, she 
very cleverly manipulated Chaplin's heartwhole infatuation until the 
whole company, much against its will, revolved round the untried 
sixteen year old star. 

The combination of extreme youth and extreme beauty proving, as 
always, irresistible to Chaplin, and the girl's mother insistent, Chaplin 
married Lita Grey soon after The Gold Rush was begun. 

Almost immediately, he discovered that he had acquired a militant 
mother-in-law determined to rule her daughter, her daughter's hus- 
band, his public, private and artistic life. She failed only where his 
work was concerned; in all else life became rapidly intolerable. Once 
more Chaplin had acquired a very young wife with whom he had 
nothing in common; and this time, in so doing, he turned his home 
into a noisy and public guest house. For Lita Grey, with her mother 
beside her, enjoyed to the full the excitement and gaiety that Mildred 
Harris yearned for, but did silently without. There can be little doubt 
that, from the beginning, there was friction between Chaplin and Mrs. 
MacMurray, and that her influence over her daughter prevented any 
possibility of a real marriage being established. Lita, young, pleasure- 
loving, and a born coquette, suddenly set down in a life of luxury and 
ease, with every hope of a successful film career, plunged into the 
most hectic social life imaginable, at a time when Chaplin was in the 
throes of a new film. 

F 



66 

One result of this unfortunate marriage was that he was forced to 
re-make the greater part of the scenes already taken. The two women 
had not realized soon enough that nothing was ever allowed to come 
before Chaplin's work. He was determined to keep the predatory 
hands of wife and mother-in-law away from it, determined that Lita 
Grey should not use him to make a film career. His decision increased 
the friction of his domestic life, but gave him freedom in his work, 
where Georgia Hale replaced Mrs. Chaplin as leading lady. 

The Gold Rush, when it was released, was an enormous success, 
both artistically and financially, and remains one of Chaplin's best 
loved films. 

When The Gold Rush was completed, Chaplin himself was for 
the first time satisfied with a film he had made, and told Goldwyn that 
this was the film he wished to be remembered by. The critics and the 
public united to acclaim "Chaplin's hour of sovereign triumph in the 
picture reels", as one leading authority in America flamboyantly 
wrote. 

In the spring of 1925 — the year that saw the release of The Gold 
Rush — Chaplin's son Charles junior was born. This event did nothing 
to bring husband and wife together; and by the time a second son, 
Sydney, arrived in 1926, it was clear that nothing could serve to put 
the marriage upon a happier footing. 

Night after night Chaplin roamed round the suburbs of Hollywood, 
prey to abysmal gloom, and the loneliness that could only be lifted 
from time to time by few and chosen friends. He was unwilling to 
spend any time at all in a home where there was neither peace nor 
rest, a home filled with Lita's gay young crowd, picked up here and 
there at random, eternally crooning, dancing, jazzing, and chattering 
against the blaring of phonographs and incessant jangling of the piano. 
Chaplin had out-grown, had indeed never had, any interest in high 
school high jinks. 

The conflict and unhappiness of his private life at this time is 
reflected in The Circus, the film he made next. In spite of its comedy 
— and the film contains some of Chaplin's funniest gags — the 
atmosphere of the film is one of exhaustion and melancholy. The lead 
in the film was given to Merna Kennedy, a childhood friend of Lita 
Grey, who afterwards denied that she had secured the part for her 
friend. 

Suddenly, and for what seemed a trivial cause, the whole of the 
pent-up irritation and hatred accumulated since the beginning of the 
marriage came to a head, soon after the birth of the second son. 
Chaplin came home one day from the studio, exhausted and on edge 
after an arduous day's work, to find the house filled, as usual, with a 



67 

noisy band of tipsy men and women, laughing and yelling and filling 
the night with their cacophony. 

Chaplin's resistance snapped. There was a monstrous scene, in 
which, beside himself, he ordered Lita's half-scared guests out of the 
house. Lita went with her guests, taking the children with her, and 
filed her petition for divorce immediately. 

This time was infinitely worse than the previous occasion, for there 
had been no malice in Mildred Harris, while there was an accumulated 
resentment of long standing in Mrs. MacMurray, who had never for- 
given Chaplin for making The Gold Rush without Lita. 

Lita's petition was filled with sensational accusations, all of which 
were avidly seized upon by that section of the press which had already 
vilified Chaplin over a period of years. 

As before, Chaplin took refuge in silence. He went to stay with his 
brother Syd, his own house being closed to him since Lita's lawyers 
had impounded all his property, including the studio, pending the case. 

The case was made as unsavoury as it well could be, and Chaplin 
retreated into the fastnesses of a depression that was all but suicidal. 
Every circumstance of his private life was made the subject of public 
and scurrilous discussion, and his enemies tasted all the satisfaction 
of scourging the man who was down. 

He could not lose himself in his work, since he was denied access to 
his property; he could not escape the full glare of publicity. There 
is no doubt that this period in his life was the worst he was called 
upon to endure; and his life had never been easy, or particularly happy. 

He saw finally that the dice were loaded too heavily against him, 
and that there was nothing he could do to combat the campaign that 
was being levied against him. He went to his old friend and lawyer in 
New York, Nathan Burke; and while his fate was being settled, he 
was at last mercifully unconscious of the struggle. His arrival in New 
York was followed by a total collapse; and only the devotion of 
Burke, and the unremitting efforts of the doctors he called in, saved 
Chaplin's life, and his reason. 

Lita Grey won her case at a cost to Chaplin of his reputation, his 
health, and a million dollars. But in due course, Chaplin finished The 
Circus, and that he did so was abundant testimony to his courage and 
his tenacity. As he had built the Chilkoot Pass in the Rockies, so he 
achieved the infinitely more difficult task of finishing a film begun at 
a time of great stress, held up by domestic catastrophe, and completed 
in circumstances that were all adverse — ill-health, nervous exhaustion 
and near-ruin. He worked like a man possessed on the film, while 
none of his associates believed it would be possible for him to force 
himself to the end. 



68 

The success of the film when it was released was balm to the 
wounding of his pride and his prestige, and financially helped to cover 
the vast amount he had paid out to Lita Grey. Chaplin himself did 
not find the film very good; he did not enjoy the feeling of satis- 
faction that The Gold Rush had given him. 

His own dissatisfaction with The Circus led him to plunge into 
another film less than a month after its completion, a rare thing for 
Chaplin, who tended to brood over his themes for increasingly long 
intervals. It is possible that his personal unhappiness found relief in 
creative work, in activity. Maybe the total absorption in his work 
that he always experienced was a panacea to the wounds from which 
he was still smarting. 

Whatever the daemon possessing him, this time Chaplin had 
plunged into his next film before The Circus was released. 

t©^ The Coming of Talkies 

FOR HIS NEXT FILM — "CITY LIGHTS'" — CHAPLIN WORKED FOR 

months with four collaborators, Henry Clive, Crocker, Henry Berg- 
man, and his secretary and press agent, Carl Robinson. At least twenty 
scripts were drawn up, written and rejected by Chaplin, who was still 
working like a man possessed. Eventually a script more to his liking 
than those so far presented made him decide to begin the film, and 
re-shape the scenario if need be as he worked. 

It was at this moment that panic struck Hollywood, and the world 
of cinema was shaken by revolution. Since 1923, the well-known 
Warners Brothers' studio had been experimenting with sound syn- 
chronization with increasing success. In 1927, with their release of 
The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson, the crisis was reached. By the 
end of 1929, Warner Brothers had brought about so comprehensive 
a revolution in film technique that the motion picture industry as a 
whole was forced to accept the innovation or go out of business. The 
"talkies" were launched. With their advent, many stars of the silent 
films were plunged into ruin, and forced to find some other means of 
livelihood. Others took lessons in voice production, elocution, or sing- 
ing, to fit themselves for the new demands made upon them. Only 
Chaplin resolutely refused to have anything to do with the innovation. 

As early as 1921, on his visit to Europe, Chaplin had discussed the 
possibility of synchronizing voice with movement. He had met St. 
John Ervine, while he was spending a week-end with H. G. Wells, and 
they had talked together at some length, since St. John Ervine was 
very much interested in the idea. But Chaplin, who was first of all a 
mime, and sincerely believed that mime was infinitely superior to 



69 

declamation, had been opposed to the whole idea: "I don't find the 
voice necessary, it spoils the art as much as painting statuary. I would 
as soon rouge marble cheeks. Pictures are pantomimic art. We might 
as well have the stage. There would be nothing left to the imagina- 
tion." 

The intervening years, the growth of general interest in sound 
synchronization, and the release of talkies, had not caused him to 
change his mind. For in 1929 he was saying to a Motion Pictures 
reporter, "Talkies? You can say I detest them! They come to ruin 
the world's most ancient art, the art of pantomime. They annihilate 
the great beauty of silence." 

At a moment then when all other studios in Hollywood were 
installing new apparatus, studying new technique, and dismissing cer- 
tain of the stars, Chaplin on La Brea Avenue doggedly went on with 
the making of a silent film. 

Virginia Cherrill was chosen for the lead in this film, largely be- 
cause, in Chaplin's eyes, she bore a strange resemblance to Edna 
Purviance. She was also short-sighted and, without her spectacles, 
looked like a blind girl. She had never made a film before or been on 
the stage; and Chaplin began the task he most enjoyed — that of taking 
raw living material, and moulding and shaping it into an artist. Edna, 
Jackie Coogan and now Virginia Cherrill. It seemed as though, after 
the recent unheavals both in his private and his public life, he had 
come out into the sun again. His old vitality returned, his absorption 
in his work. The neurotic small man disappeared, and in his place his 
studio found a dynamic and amusing director, who kept them mov- 
ing until they dropped from exhaustion. 

Then, before City Lights was more than well begun, he was called 
upon to face more suffering. His mother had suddenly been taken so 
ill that she had had to be removed to a nursing home. Her doctors at 
first had been able to reassure Chaplin, but later it became clear that 
she would not recover. Chaplin was summoned urgently, and went to 
the nursing home, where he stayed talking for over an hour with his 
mother's companion, and her doctor. 

When he returned to the car where Carl Robinson was waiting for 
him, his face was pinched and drawn, and he sat down as though 
strength had suddenly gone from him. He had decided that he would 
not go to see his mother, who was in a coma; but would keep un- 
touched his memory of her before her last illness changed her. It was 
clear to Robinson, who knew him extremely well, that in an under- 
standable revulsion of feeling, he would afterwards despise himself 
for his decision, and all his life regret that he had not seen her at the 
end. 



70 

Chaplin., torn between opposite desires, allowed himself to be 
persuaded by Robinson, and went back to the nursing home, where he 
stayed for two hours beside his mother, who only just realized the 
presence of her son, who could do nothing any more to make up for 
the lean years. 

Robinson meanwhile uneasily wondered how wise he had been in 
interfering in so intimate a matter : but when Chaplin returned to the 
car after his ordeal, he said, "You were right, Carl, I feel much better 
about it all now. She recognized me, and took my hand, and said, 
'My boy,' then she lost consciousness again. How glad I am that I was 
there for that ! " 

That night, Chaplin sat with Robinson in a Hollywood restaurant, 
waiting in a state of extreme nervous tension for the news that would 
mean release for his mother, and loss for himself. It came in the early 
hours of the morning, and Chaplin received the news with a bleak 
face. 

When he set to work again upon the film, it was with renewed 
energy, and again he was keyed to so high a pitch that his close friends 
were deeply worried. 

For inexplicable reasons, or no reason at all, he dismissed both 
Clive and Crocker. Through Clive's dismissal, he was forced to retake 
much of the film, for Clive had taken one of the major roles — that of 
the eccentric millionaire. 

Then, equally suddenly, he took a violent antipathy to his leading 
lady, Virginia Cherrill, who was told to take a few days' holiday. 
Studio gossip suggested that Virginia's loss of favour was due to the 
fact that Chaplin had renewed his earlier friendship with Georgia 
Hale, and now wanted her to play the sweet blind flower seller. Un- 
fortunately for these plans, Georgia, however disguised with blonde 
wigs, could not conceal the fact that she was not a fine enough actress 
to put over a role that was utterly foreign to her. 

It was clear that Georgia Hale would never take the part, and 
Chaplin's worried executives watched him trying to replace Virginia 
Cherrill by various young women, who seemed to have the quality he 
was seeking, but proved to have neither technique nor skill when they 
were tested. 

Finally, Virginia, who never knew how narrowly she had escaped 
the loss of her new status, was recalled, and at last this film of many 
vicissitudes was finished. When it was completed Chaplin realized that, 
however unwilling he might be to destroy "Charlie" by putting him 
into a talkie, there was no reason for denying the film a musical sound 
track. 

The young man who once heard the singing of the spheres in a 



71 

street-corner rendering of The Honeysuckle and the Bee had de- 
veloped over the years into a skilled musician. Now, for three months, 
he laboured to learn the art of composing, so that he could write the 
music for City Lights himself. He became as absorbed in music as he 
normally was in film-making. He next took lessons in conducting, and 
himself conducted the orchestra which made the sound track. 

Chaplin has always suffered doubts at the completion of any film, 
nearly always endured the dissatisfaction of the artist with the finished 
work, the horror of exposing that work to a possibly indifferent or 
hostile public. With City Lights this feeling was heightened by the 
fact that, at the climax of the triumph of talkies, he was intending to 
release a silent film. As always Sam Goldwyn received Chaplin's con- 
fession of dread — "You know, Sam, I've spent every penny I possess 
on City Lights. That first showing nearly killed me — it was an abso- 
lute Calvary. They're trying to force me to speak. But I will not. I 
will not! If City Lights is a failure, I believe it will strike a deeper 
blow than anything else that has ever happened to me in this life." 

Sam, as always, understood and found the right consolation, and 
Sam was proved right again. 

At the premiere in Los Angeles in March, 1931, a crowd of 25,000 
people surged round the approaches to the cinema in order to see all 
Hollywood arrive. Large police forces had been mobilized to control 
the crowd. The whole cinema was floodlit, and the arrival of the stars 
was announced through loud speakers. At midnight, when the show 
was over, the crowd was still there, shouting itself hoarse, and yelling 
for Chaplin. 

In London, similar scenes took place when it was shown at the 
Dominion. Hundreds packed into the vestibule, in the hope of catching 
a glimpse of Charlie, while thousands waited patiently outside in the 
pouring rain. 

Within the building, Chaplin sat between Lady Astor and Bernard 
Shaw, watching the film that had suffered so many ills. It was balm 
to Chaplin's sick spirit to realize that his popularity was un- 
diminished, and his work so greatly loved and admired that the 
public, excited to fever heat with the advent of talkies, would never- 
theless receive his latest silent film with even greater excitement. 

While he was in London this time, he visited the Hanwell Institu- 
tion, where he had spent so unhappy a period as a child. The visit 
made a tremendous impact upon him, for he is, in his own words, "an 
emotional cuss". As he looked upon the children before him, a clear 
picture of the little boy Charlie no doubt came to his mind — the boy 
Charlie who once forfeited his Christmas orange and bag of sweets 
because, in his childish excitement over Christmas, he had forgotten 



12 

to make his bed. The sight of the youngsters now in the place of the 
child he had been, sent him out to buy compensation for them. He 
bought a cinema projector, a saxophone, sweets, toys, oranges — every- 
thing the child Charlie had longed for, everything these children must 
long for too. 

Yet, when the time came for him to go to distribute this largesse 
on the following day, he was in another world, having tea with Lady 
Astor, Amy Johnson and Bernard Shaw. Yesterday's emotional crisis 
was over, appeased by the gifts he had bought. He refused to leave his 
tea party. The crowds that had gathered along the road to watch him 
pass, the children and the staff of the home, were all bitterly disap- 
pointed. But Chaplin, yesterday shaken with compassion, haunted by 
memory, pale and sombre at the thought of children condemned to 
institutional care, was to-day on top of the world, amusing his fellow 
guests with a story of how, while he was at work on City Lights he 
had made Douglas Fairbanks eat dust. Douglas Fairbanks, who will 
be remembered for his picaresque and athletic roles in The Black 
Pirate, The Three Musketeers, Robin Hood and the like, was in fact 
one of Hollywood's finest athletes, and prided himself on keeping fit. 
Finding Chaplin one morning in a black mood, he first lectured him 
on his liver, then advised him to take up the cult of physical fitness, 
and finally challenged him to an early morning sprint the following 
day from their adjoining homes in Beverley Hills to the studio on La 
Brea Avenue. Chaplin, roused from his gloom in spite of himself 
through Fairbanks' exuberant personality, looked solemnly at their 
reflection in a mirror — Fairbanks tall, bronzed, broadshouldered, and 
himself, slight, pale, and more than a head shorter. He accepted the 
challenge, and seemed to wilt under.it. The news leaked out, as news 
will, and next morning the marathon began, to the mingled jeers and 
cheers of most of the film colony assembled to watch the start. Fair- 
banks' magnificent torso earned him a round of applause; Chaplin 
received sympathetic groans. 

Fairbanks look the lead; but at the studio gates they were level; 
and while Fairbanks, panting and exhausted, dropped into a chair, 
Charlie, showing no sign of strain or stress, sprinted several times 
round the studio in best professional style, and drew up before his 
amazed and wide-eyed friend, still pumping his legs vigorously up 
and down. He then lectured Fairbanks on his liver, advised him to take 
up the cult of physical fitness and, towelling himself vigorously with 
Fairbanks' scarf, said laconically — "Kennington Wonder, that's me. 
Best amateur long distance champion this side of the Cut — but you 
wouldn't know about that ! " 

In Berlin, he was mobbed for the first time in that country. His 



73 

visit to Germany ten years before had been disappointing, since his 
films were unknown, and himself unrecognized. This second visit 
showed clearly that in the intervening years Chaplin's popularity had 
reached the same peak it had attained in England and France and 
America. In Berlin, he fell in love with Nefertiti; and for years the 
statue he bought of her stood in his home, and possibly still does. 

In Paris, he was nearly torn to pieces by a crowd that had waited 
day and night to see him arrive. His fame and his popularity had been 
sustained for ten years upon the incredible peak he had discovered in 
1921. In 1931, with City Lights, he conquered the world again. 

It is fitting that Chaplin should supply the swansong of silent film, 
an art that was extinguished in full bloom. As A Woman of Paris was 
a milestone in the history of film because it inaugurated a new genre, 
so City Lights was another, in that it marked the end of an epoch in 
film. 

t©^ The Humanist in Society 

FIVE YEARS ELAPSED BETWEEN THE RELEASE OF "CITY LIGHTS" 

(1931) and that of Chaplin's next film, Modern Times (1936). 

His second visit to Europe in 1931 compensated for the troubled 
early years of his work with United Artists. It was made abundantly 
clear to him, everywhere in Europe, that his popularity had not 
suffered through his sensational divorce, nor through the sudden boom 
of talkies. Unbounded enthusiasm, adulation, worship and, still more 
important, genuine affection for "Good old Charlie!" or "Ce cher 
Chariot!" helped to heal the sickness of spirit he had endured since 
the Gold Rush. 

His mercurial spirits soared, and he gave himself up to a prolonged 
holiday on the Cote d'Azur, in Biarritz, as far afield as Algeria, and 
then in St. Moritz. One or two chosen friends shared the holiday with 
him, and none more closely than the young May Reeves, an Austro- 
Hungarian girl who had joined the Chaplin entourage in Paris to help 
with the international fan-mail that was pouring in from all quarters. 
May Reeves, who was at home in six languages, was invaluable to a 
harassed staff, until Chaplin's eye was taken by her unusual beauty. 
As so many times before, Syd Chaplin and Carl Robinson watched 
anxiously, dreading the next entanglement, marriage or scandal that 
might develop. 

May Reeves, swept off her feet by the impetuous Chaplin, found 
herself suddenly launched into an unending social whirl, for Chaplin 
was pursuing his vacation with the same energy and dynamism that 
marked his film work. She found him an enchanting and difficult 



74 

companion. On their first meeting, he suddenly began to dance with 
her, then by himself — a pas seul as exquisite as anything she had ever 
seen. His immense zest attracted her, but, like his young wives, she 
feared and dreaded his sudden descent into abysmal gloom, his silence,, 
his complete withdrawal from his friends and colleagues into a world 
of his own, to which she had no key. 

As they enjoyed that extended holiday together with a nucleus of 
faithful souls who stayed always, and others who were suddenly dis- 
missed, or fell by the way for reasons of their own, she had frequent 
cause to wonder at his astounding powers of entertainment. 

On one occasion, following a luncheon party in the South of France,, 
he acted a French divertissement, in which he played the three roles 
— wife, husband, lover — apparently speaking a fluent and colloquial 
French, so that all save French-speaking people present were amazed 
at his command of the language. He followed this with scenes from 
Japanese plays — a form of theatre he seriously admired, insisting that 
the Japanese trained in the traditional forms were the finest actors in 
the world. He introduced this sketch in what appeared to be Japanese; 
and it was only later that his guests realized he had no knowledge 
either of French or Japanese. It is interesting, in view of this spon- 
taneous clowning in his private life, to remember that in the film he 
was to make on his return — Modern Times — there is the amusing 
sequence of Charlie the waiter, who is forced to take the place of an 
absent cabaret turn. Charlie gives a patter song in gibberish that 
sounds extremely gallic. 

Much to the relief of his closest friends, May Reeves left the party 
at St. Moritz; or perhaps it would be truer to say that Chaplin left her 
there, and set out on the world tour he had suddenly decided to make. 
He travelled to Japan, where he intended to absorb all that he could 
of the traditional Japanese theatre, so near in technique to his own 
work. News of him came from Tokio, Singapore, Egypt : and he did 
not return to Hollywood until May, 1932, having been away for over 
a year. 

Soon after his return, gossip began to couple his name with that of 
Paulette Goddard, a beautiful girl of nineteen, described by the 
columnists as "belonging to the most exclusive set in American 
society". Chaplin had first met her in California while she was staying 
in the country house of friends of her family; and very soon they were 
making frequent visits to Palm Beach and along the coast together. 

There is no doubt that Paulette Goddard, more than a little bored 
with the pleasure round of her normal life, welcomed the distraction 
provided by Chaplin's total difference from any man she had previ- 
ously met: and her young vanity was fed by the ardent pursuit of 



75 

one of the most famous men in the world. Chaplin, as always, had 
found her classic beauty irresistible, and then was delighted by her 
intelligence and her witty malice. She was as young and lovely as 
Mildred Harris and Lita Grey had been: but already, at nineteen, 
she had her share of the sophistication of Pola Negri. Robert Florey's 
description of her as "la trepidante et delicieuse Paulette" is very 
apt. 

Shortly after their first meeting, they set out together on a cruise of 
the South Seas. It was during this period that they were secretly 
married at sea, on June 1st, 1933. It is not very clear why the marriage 
was kept secret, but certainly as late as April, 1936, Paulette Goddard 
was referred to as Chaplin's fiancee. 

As soon as Chaplin returned to Hollywood after his romantic inter- 
lude, the gossips were busy speculating over his next film. All were 
agreed that Paulette Goddard would be the central figure in it. Her 
patrician beauty was exceptionally photogenic, and she was palpably 
eager to enter films. It was certain that Chaplin would enjoy making 
her into an artist; and he found for her the ideal role in the girl waif 
of Modern Times. Here was no forlorn orphan, but a piquant gamine 
in rebellion against the conditions that had created her outcast state, 
a foil to Charlie, and his complement. 

Modern Times is in effect the meeting place of Chaplin's past tor- 
ment and present felicity. Storm and strife had matured him, and 
brought to a head his feeling for the under-dog and the dispossessed : 
it had crystallized his hatred and contempt for what he had always 
believed to be the greatest evil of our times — the industrialization of 
the people. On the other hand, he came to the making of this film 
after a long period of rest and relaxation, and at the beginning of a 
marriage that was, in its first years, rapturously happy. These factors 
gave the film its overtones of radiant good humour. However serious 
its satire, Modern Times glows with a joyousness that radiates from 
every scene. The film bore every sign of Chaplin's maturity. It was 
an ironic indictment of the slavery of the machine, and a defence of 
individuality. It was also Chaplin's happiest film. 

One immediate result of the release of Modern Times was to add 
another group to the list of Chaplin's persecutors. A whole section of 
American society had risen against him for moral reasons, because of 
his two marriages with young girls, and the subsequent "scandalous" 
divorces from them: and because of the constant stream of women 
whose names were associated with his. Another and conservative sec- 
tion were suspicious of his political convictions, claiming to see in his 
public statements and in his films an open avowal of communist 
sympathies, or worse. Following Modern Times, the moralists and the 



76 

politicians were joined by the American industrialists, who maintained 
the system Chaplin derided and satirized in the film. 

The outcry against him was now gathering force and momentum; 
and his own increasingly intransigent attitude added fuel to the fires 
raging around him. Chaplin the comedian was fast yielding place to 
Chaplin the humanist. And the latter was deeply concerned with the 
evils arising from man's inhumanity to man. His next film, The Great 
Dictator, released at the end of the first year of Europe's war against 
Fascism, in 1940, was a sequel to the film in which he condemned 
modern social conditions. All his life he had been furiously roused by 
anything that served to destroy individual force. Hitler was the in- 
carnation of that destructive impulse. Chaplin, therefore, took all the 
well-known doctrines of dictatorship, and with sublime comedy, ex- 
posed their pretentiousness and their sham. So much ill-advised 
comment was made upon Chaplin's propagandist purposes in making 
the film that, as so often before, he was forced into a statement: 

"Some people have suggested that I made this picture for propa- 
ganda purposes. This is far from the truth. I am not interested in 
propaganda as such — most propaganda is didactic and dull. I made 
The Great Dictator because I hate dictators and because I want 
people to laugh." 

The Great Dictator was Chaplin's first talking film, and the last in 
which there is any real trace of the Charlie we knew in those far-away 
days when Hollywood hardly existed, and the little tramp had just 
begun his long pilgrimage, in the Keystone studios. 

The years between the release of The Great Dictator (1940) and 
Chaplin's last film to date, Monsieur Verdoux in 1947, were filled 
with excitements of a dubious kind, that did little to disperse 
the suspicion and hostility with which Chaplin was regarded in 
America. 

For the third time, his marriage ended in failure. This time it had 
lasted nine years, and for some of them had been wholly successful. 
The causes of its slow disintegration were multiple. Paulette Goddard 
was never as young in spirit as her two predecessors. She had a strong 
and demanding personality, which developed over the years of fame 
and wealth and continuous publicity along its own lines. 

In her own way, she was as much of an individualist as Chaplin, 
and as headstrong. For his part, Chaplin had never been known to 
remain interested for very long in any woman who attracted him. 
After the rapturous beginning, the clash of personality began, until 
towards the end of 1941 it was clear that both husband and wife 
intended to end a marriage that had already ceased to be more than 
a fagade. The name of Burgess Meredith was already being linked 



77 

with that of Paillette Goddard, while Chaplin was reputed to be 
interested in the young daughter of Eugene O'Neill. 

In 1942, therefore, a divorce took place in Mexico, and Paulette 
Goddard was granted a divorce settlement of £250,000, largely in 
jewellery, for which she had an exorbitant passion. She successfully 
pursued an independent career in films, the only one of his wives to 
do so. 

The repercussions of this divorce were only just dwindling when 
once more Chaplin found himself in the public eye, and suffering the 
incurable glare of maximum publicity. 

In 1943, he married the eighteen year old daughter of the play- 
wright Eugene O'Neill, much against her father's wishes. There were 
some who attributed the failure of O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh to 
his concern over his daughter. In the same year, Chaplin was involved 
in the unsavoury Joan Barry paternity case, in which a young actress 
sued him as the father of her then unborn child. 

The case was taken before the Superior Court of California; and 
the Hearst press, always among Chaplin's deadliest enemies, began a 
campaign of abuse that clearly had a political, not a moral, basis. The 
campaign seemed to have received its impetus from hostility occa- 
sioned by speeches Chaplin had made in 1942 in support of the Second 
Front. 

The case dragged on into 1944, by which time Chaplin had been 
indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in Los Angeles for violation of the 
Mann Act, on counts of having endeavoured to transport Miss Barry 
to New York, in order to engage in illicit sexual relations with her; 
and of conspiring to deprive her of her civil rights. 

The case had now taken an ugly turn; for the maximum sentence 
for these offences were twenty-three years' imprisonment and a fine of 
nearly seven thousand pounds. Chaplin was acquitted of these more 
serious charges, but the paternity suit, with a re-trial following dis- 
agreement on the first jury, dragged on into 1945, when it was finally 
decided that Chaplin was the father of the child, now two years old. 
In the following year, his appeal against the decision was dismissed 
by the District Court of Appeal in California. 

In the witness box, Chaplin suffered at the hands of Miss Barry's 
counsel, who called him, among other flamboyancies, "a master 
mechanic in the art of seduction" and accused him of "lying like a 
cheap Cockney cad" ! Chaplin's refusal to apply for American citizen- 
ship has long been a grudge against him; and counsel certainly pan- 
dered to that grudge. 

By the time Monsieur Verdoux was released in 1947, Chaplin's 
own attitude, the recent dramas of his private life, and world events 



78 

beyond his controlling, had all contributed to arouse his detractors to 
a point of fanaticism. 

Chaplin continued to mould his public and private life according to 
his own ideas. He expressed those ideas clearly and firmly and would 
not move from them. He would not become an American citizen, 
because he did not believe in nationalism. He expressed admiration for 
the efforts Soviet Russia had made to establish a vigorous home policy, 
but denied any communist leanings or tendencies, or that he was 
himself in truth a communist. Over his private affairs he maintained, 
as always, an unbroken silence. His attitude infuriated the fanatics; 
and he then presented them with Monsieur Verdoux, in which film he 
reached his peak of subtlety and satire, and in which he excoriated all 
that his detractors stood for, and were maintained by. 

The genesis of Verdoux is an interesting one. Orson Welles, whose 
work comes nearest to Chaplin's in originality and independence, was 
dining one evening with the Chaplins and, as usual, discussing films. 
From this discussion came a suggestion that a Welles-Chaplin 
collaboration on a film concerning the French Bluebeard-murderer 
Landru, might well make film history. Chaplin found the proposal 
intriguing and possible in the mellow after-dinner hours. But by next 
morning his acumen had reasserted himself; he knew that collabora- 
tion between himself and Welles was impossible. Both were essen- 
tially independent directors. By now, however, the possibilities of the 
Landru theme had seized firm hold of his imagination, and he in- 
structed his manager to buy Welles out. That dinner with the Chaplins 
was a remunerative one for Welles, who gained 25,000 dollars through 
that half-casual suggestion and presentation of a theme. Landru 
changed into Verdoux, and his specific pathological homicide was 
transmuted by Chaplin's alchemy into sociological necessity. 

The fate of Monsieur Verdoux in America has been interesting. 
Several powerful groups, led by the Catholic Church, organized so 
widespread a boycott over the showing of the film that Chaplin was 
forced to withdraw it from circulation, since managers would no 
longer book it. In over two years, the film played just over two thou- 
sand dates, as compared with the normal showing of twelve thousand 
dates for the average film. 

In Europe, the film achieved a mixed reception. No one denied its 
quality: Chaplin showed himself to be still a major artist in film. 
Many praised it highly; but a large proportion of his early public 
missed Charlie and his ludicrous misadventures, missed the golden 
humour of the earlier films, and were uneasy over the astringent wit 
of this one. A few found the film immensely sad, for it seemed that at 
last Chaplin, creator of the indomitable little tramp Charlie, had given 



79 

up hope of finding anything at all over the horizon towards which, in 
the early films, he had shuffled with such unflagging optimism. 

Monsieur Verdoux certainly roused increased antagonism in the 
States. In May, 1947, Republican senator Harry P. Cain (Washington) 
in a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, demanded that 
Chaplin should be deported, on the grounds that he "almost treason- 
ably" asked Picasso — "a self-admitted French communist" — to head 
a protest committee in France against the American deportation pro- 
ceedings against the great German composer and anti-fascist Hans 
Eisler, which had been organized by the Rankin Committee. 

Counterpoise was given to this assessment of Chaplin's value a year 
later in France by the French Association of Cinema Critics, who 
proposed unanimously that Chaplin should receive the Nobel Peace 
Prize, on the grounds that Modern Times, The Great Dictator and 
Monsieur Verdoux were outstanding contributions to the better 
promulgation of peace. 

Chaplin to-day stands trapped in a paradox. He enjoys unparalleled 
fame and popularity, while at the same time he is loaded with infamy 
and unlimited hostility. The same man, much loved and much hated, 
is a public idol and a public affront, who goes his own way in spite 
of it all. 

t©>, Portrait of a Great Man 

MOST PEOPLE ARE SURPRISED WHEN THEY MEET CHAPLIN FACE TO 

face. Neither the little tramp Charlie of the past, with his wistful 
eyes, absurd moustache, fantastic walk and ragged finery, nor Ver- 
doux of the present, handsome and elegant man about town, are any 
preparation for such a meeting. 

Time has thickened the outline and silvered the hair of the "slender 
fellow, smooth shaven, with waves of crisp black hair and dark blue 
eyes that have the peculiar smoky quality of the autumn hills" whom 
Sam Goldwyn met over a quarter of a century ago. 

His smallness, his feminine hands, and his astonishing eyes are the 
physical factors that immediately impress those who see him for the 
first time, together with the mobility of his face, expressing as it does 
in casual conversations all the facets of his volatile temperament. 

He rose from obscurity to meet the blazing sun of international 
publicity, laudatory and adverse, with a suddenness that might have 
overthrown him, had it not been for his singleminded absorption in his 
work. Yet the demands of fame are very great. For him, from the 
beginning of his career in films, small audiences gave place to the 
idolatrous worship of the crowd; and he, the poverty-haunted 



80 

Lambeth lad, earned wealth beyond his wildest dreams. He became, 
without any volition on his part, a legend, a myth, a name that rang 
through the world. 

It would be difficult for any human being, however assured, to 
survive such a sudden transformation without some deviations of 
character. Chaplin was never assured; there was too much insecurity 
and terror in his background, and he could never escape from the 
memory of it. Without his artistic integrity, he would have been a lost 
soul, given over to the worst excesses that his fabulous position 
imposed upon him. Hollywood's reputation as the Babylon of 
modern times was built by the lost souls who found sudden wealth and 
fame too much for them, and lost both as quickly as they had been 
gained. 

Chaplin's artistry, and his Cockney shrewdness, saved him in the 
early years. 

His work has brought him enormous rewards and enormous frustra- 
tions. He has found release for all time from the cankering fear of 
poverty that overshadowed his youth. He has earned the freedom to 
engage upon his work without let or hindrance, his own master always. 
But fame has robbed him of privacy. He can rarely walk unnoticed 
through a crowd, never make a film or a statement, a gesture or a mis- 
take, that will not be misunderstood, misinterpreted, magnified or 
minimised, until it is difficult to apply normal terms of judgment to 
anything he says or does. In his younger days, demonstrations of popu- 
larity — the crowds that followed him, mobbed him, spied upon him, 
wrote to him — exhausted and terrified him; yet he could not do with- 
out the exhilaration of receiving witness of his fame, nor resist playing 
up to the demands made upon him. 

Complex personalities demand great understanding; and for years 
Chaplin lived in an inward solitude as much forced upon him as 
sought by him. The morose youth of the Karno days, the taciturn 
intruder into the Sennett Studios, gave place to the successful young 
man surrounded by satellites, sycophants, a few real friends, and shoals 
of aspiring women, whom he alternatively welcomed into rapturous 
and apparently intimate friendship, and then ignored completely. He 
was always torn between the desire for human contact and under- 
standing, friendship and love that is common to all mankind; and a 
far greater desire for absolute liberty. The pattern of his relationships 
with people has therefore been an erratic one. His immediate and 
strong reaction to people, his sudden violent friendships, are well- 
known. So too the fact that he continually thrusts away friends, lovers 
and colleagues who come too close, in a panic so acute that he will 
achieve the break by whatever means comes to hand. 




Modern Times (1936) 




Modern Times (1936) 

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The Quixotic Boxer. City Lights (1931) 




The Jewish Barber. The Great Dictator (1940) 




Adenoid Hynkel. The Great Dictator (1940) 



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Under the Sign of the Double Cross. The Great Dictator (1940) 




Modern Times (1936) 




The Machine Age 




Recognition. Monsieur Verdoux (1947) 




The Man about Town. Monsieur Verdoux (1947) 




The Cynical Amorist. Monsieur Verdoux (1947) 




The Dear Departed. Monsieur Verdoux (1947) 




The Connoisseur. Monsieur Verdoux (1947) 




Looking Ahead. Monsieur Verdoux (1947) 



89 

This double compulsion serves in large measure to explain the 
accusations of cruelty and ingratitude that have been levelled against 
him; as it explains the sudden banishment of Edna Purviance after 
ten years of closest collaboration; of Carl Robinson, who was for six- 
teen years his confidential secretary; of Cami, devoted disciple from 
the first time Chaplin ever set foot in Paris. It serves to explain the 
otherwise inexplicable dismissal of colleagues in the middle of a film; 
his whole-hearted admirations and aversions; and his determination 
never to yield to the social or emotional pressure put upon him by 
those who mistakenly assume that they are indispensable to him. 

His great love of power and its exercise may also be a factor in his 
repudiation of relationships — the quick vivid friendships swiftly ended 
and forgotten, the wilful destruction of the affection, or passion that 
he had himself provoked and fostered. 

His is a paradoxical character. Everyone who has ever been asso- 
ciated with Chaplin has commented on his capacity for the wildest 
fooling, his spontaneous and wholehearted gaiety in any assembly, an 
ebullience of spirits that sweeps the crowd with him whenever he 
chooses — yet leaves behind it the impression of melancholy held in 
check. 

No one who knows him is surprised when he turns morosely and 
silently away from the studio, or from a group of friends, suddenly 
engulfed in a despair that has no issue, a mood of despondency so 
acute that nothing, not even the exigencies of his work, have been 
known to lift it until it has run its course. 

Quite apart from the loneliness of his youth, largely due to his own 
maladjustment, his desire for normal social relations has always been 
complicated by this essential solitude of the spirit, that is inescapable. 
This isolation is the cause of Chaplin's sadness, that from the be- 
ginning was the basis of his clowning. For Chaplin could neither 
endure nor change the awareness of solitude that had been his all his 
life, and from which he had never found relief in any companionship 
or any love affair. Contact with men and women, when it became 
close, served only to accentuate the hopelessness of any understanding 
between himself and others. His intelligence was great enough to 
make him aware of the full implication of his isolation; his sensibility 
caused him to suffer from it. His courage and his tremendous zest for 
living have forced him, over the years, to accept the intolerable. 

This full acceptance of experience, to which he has always borne 
witness in his life and in his work, is part of Chaplin's astonishing 
vigour and positive attitude towards life, his joy and excitement in 
living. 

"I'm an emotional cuss," Chaplin said of himself, and there is a 

H 



90 

certain ruefulness in the confession. For Chaplin's emotionalism 
caused him and others much suffering, and set him off on a long 
search for the ideal woman with an impetuosity that carried him along 
faster than he could easily travel. His own temperament made him 
particularly vulnerable to the beauty of women, with the subsequent 
disillusionment when he found nothing behind the beauty. Chaplin's 
odyssey of love has, on the whole, contained more suffering than 
satisfaction. 

That extension of his personal solitude, which covers his isolated 
position in modern American society, the society against which his 
heaviest guns have been fired in all his films, is understandable. 

Always subjective in his thinking, his own passionate desire for free- 
dom puts him always on the side of the under-dog, the downtrodden, 
the industrial slave; and therefore against the molochs of big business 
who have robbed mankind of freedom. 

His ardour, his vitality, made a crusader of him. His deep sadness, 
his solitude, were the basis of his desire that all men should have their 
minimum requirements. It is the basis too of his appeal to humanity 
as a whole, without frontiers or nations or any limitation of the 
brotherhood of man. His individuality and his integrity forced him to 
declare himself on what is, in America, the wrong side — the side of the 
little man. 

Chaplin is a natural anarchist, an individual unit taking a stand on 
matters of social and political interest according to his own judg- 
ment, principles and understanding, regardless of the established order 
of the society in which he lives. Sometimes he may find himself in 
line; more often, not, since his own motives, by which he lives, are in 
almost total opposition to those ruling the society of our times. That 
is the core of Chaplin's so-called "political" position. Certainly Soviet 
Russia has extended welcoming arms to him; and his public activities 
and statements have given rise to an American witch hunt against him 
for "subversitive" tendencies. 

A natural anarchist cannot be a communist; the ideologies are at 
opposite poles, since anarchy gives pride of place to the individual, 
and communism to the state. Chaplin's natural anarchy leads him to 
an outlook upon life that is communist in the real, not the party 
political meaning, of the terms — a desire for the brotherhood of man 
and for an equal distribution of the world's goods, to secure for each 
man his basic rights. Being what he is, he finds himself in substantial 
agreement with the ideals of the social programme of the communist 
party in Russia; but remote indeed from its practice. He is too much 
of an individualist, too great an artist, to be able to accept the doc- 
trines of State Socialism. 



91 

He is an iconoclast not through any formulated policy — for his 
thinking, like that of D. H. Lawrence, comes from the heart, not from 
the head — nor through exhibitionism, but through a total incapacity to 
fit in with, or accept, the axioms of modern society. Chaplin, like 
H. G. Wells, wants order, but a New World Order, believes that men 
are capable of government if they are sufficiently well-intentioned, and 
receive efficient support from a politically educated mass. In effect, 
most of the satire of his films, from Keystone days to Monsieur 
Verdoux is directed against the various human frailties and stupidities 
that prevent the establishment of such order. 

Chaplin's political position results from his personality — from his 
fundamental romanticism with its allied anarchy, that must express 
itself in its own terms, not as a communist manifesto, but as a declara- 
tion of the rights of every man. 

Chaplin's whole life has been offensive to the herd mind. The 
iconoclast is never popular, and Chaplin, because of his intensely per- 
sonal approach to the problems of living, because of the subjective 
nature of his work, has been an open target for the fear and malice 
aroused by his unwavering refusal to yield any part of his indi- 
viduality. 

Together with animosity and hostility, he has enjoyed a world-wide 
affection that comes rarely to men, and that, in his case, still endures 
over the greater part of the globe. 

To-day, Chaplin, at sixty-two, has lived through the tempestuous 
years, overcome the strain and suffering, and reached a mellow calm. 
Behind him stretch the years of hardship, poverty, privation; the years 
of sudden exciting fame and wealth; the years of personal calamity 
and struggle and dissatisfaction; the turbulent catastrophes brought 
about by his own temperament; the years of solitude and sadness and 
seeking. 

His marriage with Oona O'Neill would seem to be the main reason 
for his present content. Thrice before, his liking for young girls had 
betrayed him into foolish marriages. Mildred Harris, with her baby 
doll prettiness, as well as Lita Grey, of the soulful dark eyes, and 
Paulette Goddard, the ex-Follies girl, had nothing upon which to 
build a marriage with a mature and complex personality. The eighteen- 
year-old Oona O'Neill was of quite other stuff. Her reply to the 
inevitable question of the inevitable reporter, on her wedding day, 
showed her quality. She was asked why she had chosen as husband a 
much-married man of scandalous reputation, three times as old as she 
was. She replied, with a gleam of humour in her intelligent dark eyes, 
that hers was a esoteric union. The baffled reporter transcribed this 
perfect reply to press impertinence, and for a long time afterwards 



92 

everyone explained at great length what she must have meant. 

The development of her marriage has explained it for her. Con- 
trary to all general expectation, and in spite of the failure of Chap- 
lin's three other marriages, the eighteen year old girl and the fifty- 
four year old man have achieved, over the years, a vital marriage. 
Chaplin's own contentment, the atmosphere of his home, prove it. 

He has lived for the past twenty years in the same house in Beverley 
Hills, with its swimming pool shaped like an inverted bowler hat, 
and its long-treasured bust of the incomparable Nefertiti, with the 
furnishings and appointments that have scarcely changed over the 
years. For the little boy who took part in frequent moonlight flits, the 
youth who lived in dingy rooms on tour, grew into the man who clung 
to his home, once it was established, through all his marital and other 
vicissitudes. Even Oona Chaplin must go warily with changes and 
innovations in the house; but the intelligence that shook the reporter, 
the intelligence that made her, young though she was, a real com- 
panion to her husband, is great enough to secure for her her own way 
without too much dissent from her strangely conservative partner. 

Markova, who first met Chaplin in Hollywood in 1938, soon 
discovered this conservatism. One hot summer's day, after a gruelling 
rehearsal, she called in at the Chaplin home, and found a tennis 
party just finishing. She murmered something about tea, hopefully. 
Charlie turned eagerly to her — "You've come to the right place. 
There's a real cup of tea going to-day!" And thereupon he led his 
party into the house to enjoy a "high tea" that was a masterpiece 
of its kind, and as authentic as any served in London or Lancashire 
or Yorkshire. Markova was interested to see how, in the midst of 
Hollywood's extravagant splendour, he lived without ostentation, and 
remained somehow English to the core. 

Part of Chaplin's present content is due to his success as a family 
man. He and his present wife have three young children — two 
daughters, Geraldine who is six, and Josephine who is two; and a 
four year old son Michael. All Chaplin's undiminished sentimentality, 
all his desire to make up to other children for the lacks in his own 
childhood, are satisfied in his dealings with his young family. To the 
world at large, Chaplin is either the little tramp, or America's Big Bad 
Wolf. To his three children, he is a superlative playmate, the most 
amusing father any family could have. 

His relations with his grown-up sons, the children of Lita Grey, 
have grown close with the passing years. They were handsome 
children, and have become handsome and gifted young men. Charles 
Chaplin junior, who is now twenty-six, and his brother Sydney, who 
is twenty-five, bear names that are illustrious in the world of film> 



93 

and show signs that they have inherited their father's talents, if not 
his genius. Charles junior has turned to legitimate theatre, and it has 
been rumoured that he may play Hamlet on Broadway; while Sydney 
may make his screen debut in his father's next film, Limelight. 

The new film is said to be based on the life of the music-hall 
star Mark Sheridan, who enjoyed enormous popularity in his day. 
A contemporary of T. E. Dunville, Arthur Reece and Charles 
Godfrey, he shared with them the peculiar gusto and vitality of the 
real music-hall turn. He ended tragically. He shot himself during 
a breakdown largely due to the belief that the public were growing 
tired of him. The theme of Limelight is that of "an ageing music- 
hall comedian who wants to make a comeback, but has lost his 
confidence and is haunted by the fear that he can no longer get 
the laughs" — a Chaplinesque transmutation perhaps of Mark Sheri- 
dan's tragic suicide. 

A factor of great interest in the making of this film is that it seems 
likely to lead Chaplin into choreography. Some months ago, Constance 
Collier (who in the earliest days of her successful stage career herself 
appeared in music-hall) gave a tea party in her New York flat to 
reunite old friends. Markova and Dolin were there, on their way 
back to England. Suddenly the door opened, and Chaplin and his 
young wife came in, Charlie's eyes vivid with cold, and both glad 
to escape for a while the freezing temperature outside. 

Chaplin fell upon his friends with enthusiasm, and even before 
he had removed his coat, had begun to tell them of an idea for 
a ballet — The Death of Columbine — he planned to include in his 
next film. Leaping to his feet, thrusting his cup at Oona, he began 
to dance and mime the theme, giving so vivid an impression of the 
whole ballet, in such detail, that Markova and Dolin saw exactly 
what he meant to achieve. A final pirouette brought him to face 
them, his eyes alight. "Will you dance it for me? Will you?" 

With one voice two world-famous dancers, fired with his vision, 
said: "When?" "Ah, that! You know me! Maybe in a few months, 
maybe in a year or two — you know how I work. But I'll call upon 
you when the moment comes. Will you dance it for me then?" 

They did indeed know how he worked, with what delight and 
pleasure in the planning of each significant detail, with what absolute 
knowledge of what he wanted, and how he meant to achieve it. 
His enthusiasm and his ballet were both irresistible; and when the 
time comes, Markova and Dolin will dance it for him. 

Now that the stormy years are over, his life has settled down to a 
leisurely routine, broken by the sudden and imperious demands of his 
children. His day begins late, and is given over to periods of study or 



94 

reading, followed by bouts of physical exercise; for Chaplin's early 
training in gymnastics and dancing, together with his vitality, have 
left him with a desire for hard exercise, on the tennis court or in the 
swimming pool. 

For years now, his "brooding" period over his scenarios, has been 
increasingly long and arduous, and he is never seen in his studios 
while he is enduring the initial torments of producing a theme. He 
has a full-time staff to deal with routine matters, and his technicians 
are always on call. 

Music still fills a great part of Chaplin's life, in his own enter- 
tainment, the entertainment of his guests, and in his own work. 
His attitude to his own music is best illustrated by his gesture to 
Markova. They had enjoyed together a lively discussion on Monsieur 
Verdoux. Markova had particularly liked the music Chaplin com- 
posed for the film, and Chaplin was delighted with her appreciation 
of it, in the same unbelieving way he had been delighted so many 
years before with the reception of The Kid. When she was about to 
leave Hollywood, he gave her a complete set of records of the music, 
because she had enjoyed it, and he had enjoyed making it. 

The strain and suffering caused by the virulent hostility main- 
tained against him by a section of the American public, has been 
overcome at last by the contentment of his private life. He is to-day 
leading the leisurely and cultured life of a wealthy man. His home, his 
wife, his family, his books, his music fill his days. He takes as long as 
he chooses over the preparation for, and working upon, each of his 
films. In his work and in his home, he is at ease, after so many 
tormented years. 

Perhaps the most revealing thing Chaplin has ever said, and the 
most typical, was the reply he gave to Sam Goldwyn's question, 
"What do you want most from the future?" Chaplin was a young man 
then, and he replied, "More life. Whether it comes through pictures 
or not — more life ! " Anyone with such zest for living must either go 
under or come out on top. And Chaplin, after titanic struggles, both 
personal and public, has come out on top. 



95 



PART TWO t@, CHAPLIN'S WORK 

Experiment 

Development 

Achievement 

Moment of Defeat 

Mastery 

Monsieur Verdoux 

Charlie 

Man of Many Talents 

Chaplin at Work 

His Lasting Fame 



97 
t©^ Experiment 

ONE OF THE MAJOR INTERESTS OF CHAPLIN' S WORK IN FILM LIES 

in its subjective nature. It is the direct and astonishing expression of 
himself, and that factor gives homogeneity to all his films. From the 
guttersnipe malice of the Charlie of the Keystone Films has evolved 
the suave and subtle malice of Monsieur Verdoux. Between lies the 
evolution of a genius in terms of film. 

In the year he spent under Mack Sennett at the Keystone Studios 
(1914-15), Chaplin learned the rudiments of film making, and how to 
transpose his own music-hall acts into film terms. 

Standing out in bold relief against the background of ordinary 
slapstick, the figure of Charlie the little tramp, with his dancer's 
control of movement, and his astonishing agility, began to touch the 
hearts of his audiences with his laugh-provoking silhouette — the small 
bowler perched on a curly mop of hair, the tight short jacket buttoned 
over several waistcoats, the baggy trousers falling over the huge out- 
turned boots, the jaunty cane expressing every mood of its owner. 

Gradually, Charlie was evolved. He emerges, at this stage, as an 
embodiment, in simple terms, of Chaplin's childhood. He is the White- 
chapel gutter urchin, always alert and on the offensive, malicious, 
faintly vicious, and with guttersnipe gestures — as when, in Caught In 
A Cabaret (1914), in a fight with Chester Conklin, he metamorphoses 
the slum nose prod, several times repeated, into a marvel of comic 
movement; or in The Fatal Mallet (1914) approaches an opponent 
with his backside jutting out from the waist in the immemorial manner 
of the slum gamecock. 

Even in so early a stage, the little tramp is out of step with society, 
as the young Chaplin was out of step with his world. And from the 
beginning, Charlie is fastidious, a quality shown in the ragged elegance 
of his clothes, and in scenes where the little tramp brushes his clothes 
and polishes his nails with a scrubbing-brush; or delicately dips his 
finger tips in water after a meal of broken bits and pieces. 

The Keystone films, now museum pieces, give us the childhood of 
Charlie the tramp — a figure of potentiality and promise rather than 
of achievement, feeling his way into the fantastic world prepared for 
him by the framework of Keystone comedy, out of step with that 
world, frustrated but never quite conquered by it. 

The original elements in his work, that are dimly perceptible in the 
35 Keystone Comedies — satire, lyricism, the malevolent life of 
inanimate objects, the humour of incongruity (as when he wears the 
bowler and spats with a leopard-skin in His Prehistoric Past (1914), 
— go side by side with the originality of his cinematic approach. At a 



98 

time when the pioneers of film were applying stage technique to their 
work, Chaplin began to develop both plot and his own comedy line 
through movement and mime, to a shape that was rhythmically 
controlled. 

When he transferred to the Essanay Company (1915), Chaplin con- 
tinued to work along the lines he had discovered during his Keystone 
year. With his sixth film for that company — The Tramp (1915) — 
comes a change of major importance. For the first time, there is an 
undercurrent of pathos in the film. Until now, Charlie had evolved 
along the lines of urchinhood — vindictive, malicious, rebellious, his 
hand against everyone, and everyone's hand against his, ready to seize 
any advantage that would enable him to keep his precarious foothold 
on the fringes of society. In The Tramp, we see for the first time the 
pathetic outcast, the wanderer, without friend or shelter, the displaced 
person of all time. 

In this film, Charlie moved definitely from the category of comic 
type to that of personality, the eternal little fellow filled with a desire 
to love and be loved, for whom there is nothing but watching the 
fulfilment of others. Later in the Essanay year, with The Bank (1915) 
there comes a reiteration of the pathetic element in the little tramp, 
and a deepening of his personality. 

After his first two years in film, Chaplin reaped the full harvest of 
the years that had preceded them, and then with the twelve films he 
made for the Mutual Company (1916-17), reached a peak in his 
creative life. These films were, in a special sense, the prototype of all 
that was to come from him; and his comedy is increasingly charged 
with a philosophical significance that lifts it out of farce into satire, 
and increases its pathos. 

In the film world, other comedians — Buster Keaton with his dead- 
pan face and robot-like gesture; Harold Lloyd with his owl-eyed 
glasses, and passion for suspending himself over space at dizzy 
heights; Ben Turpin of the crossed eyes, lamp-fringe moustache and 
romantic soul — made their audiences rock with laughter. Chaplin's 
greatness lies in the fact that he made his audiences laugh differently, 
made them "laugh lest they cry". 

It was at this time that he embarked upon a patient research into 
comic effects, the essence of comedy, the reaction of audiences, with a 
view to discovering a more personal expression of humour. The 
Mutual films show the development of a subtler comedy, in which the 
controlled and rhythmic use of gesture is of prime importance. 

There is development too in his use of decor. Until now, the back- 
ground of his films had been largely haphazard, as it was for all 
American films in those early days. But with the Mutual series, 



99 

Chaplin used the decor of the film to provide an essential part of its 
atmosphere. The slum setting of Easy Street (1917), for example, not 
only adds incalculably to the effect of the theme of the film, but 
points its satire and its purpose in a way new, not only to Chaplin's 
work, but to American film-making generally. 

The comedy types selected in the Essanay series — the Tough, the 
Policeman, the Young Girl, Charlie the Tramp — take on a deeper 
significance. They remain types in so far as they present the basic 
pattern of the film — Charlie the focal point of disturbance, con- 
tinually harassed by power (The Tough) and authority (The Police- 
man), and continually transported into a world of delight and frustra- 
tion because of his unrequited love for the Young Girl. But in the 
Mutual Series, both Charlie and the Girl acquire more complex 
personalities; and the Tough and the Policeman become symbols of 
forces greater than themselves. 

Charlie's early malice and vivacity have now become satire, and 
indomitable optimism. Increasingly, he is the wistful, heart-catching 
clown, the hungry child pressing his nose against the pastrycook's 
window, the tramp forever lonely and alone, at odds with society. 
The Young Girl is no longer just beauty in distress, but a gentle and 
compassionate girl, the centre of Charlie's adventures and aspirations, 
who is regretfully unable to return his chivalric devotion. 

As Charlie and the Girl acquire personality, and Charlie's absurd 
misadventures begin to take on a universal significance, the Tough 
and the Policeman are forced into new positions. Increasingly, as the 
Mutual films develop, they become symbols and agents of the avenging 
Fate predestined to pursue one end — the annihilation of Charlie. 

Another interesting factor is by this time emerging. Chaplin had 
already made over fifty short films. The fundamental theme, common 
to them all, is the projection of his own childhood. His symbols are 
obvious — Charlie himself, lonely, outcast, tormented and unconquer- 
able; Edna Purviance, the Young Girl — at once his mother, and all 
the unrealized and unattainable desires of childhood and adolescence; 
the Tough and the Policeman — the relentless forces of power and law 
and authority that shadowed those early years. The satire of these 
early films is the almost unconscious judgment of the adult Chaplin 
upon the cruelties he suffered in his youth. 

Chaplin was now well away. His projection of his darkest hours was 
given in comedy so pointed and so ludicrous that great gales of laugh- 
ter convulsed the whole world because of it. Charlie's personal idiosyn- 
cracies, his hilarious misadventures, the gallant battles he waged 
against impossible odds aroused great mirth; his wistfulness, his lone- 
liness, the endless frustration of his loves and hopes and ambitions 



100 

aroused compassion; and the jauntiness with which he faced up to the 
shattering blows of fate, his smallness in a world of mighty toughs and 
burly policemen, aroused something like admiration. 

The Mutual films show clearly that Charlie is the doppelganger of 
Chaplin himself, and that his films are not only subjective, but in 
addition offer the lyrical and romantic presentation of his life. The 
films he had made to date were not simply a series of comedies 
different in kind and quality from any that had been made before. 
They were unique in that they were all linked, and traced the first 
cycle of the little Tramp's saga, an epic that covered the life of 
Chaplin himself. This gives them an homogeneity different from any 
other series of films made by the same man. 

In 1917, at the end of his third year in films, and with the closing 
of the Mutual contract, all the elements of Chaplin's future work had 
been discovered and laid down. Every film afterwards with very few 
exceptions, will be a development of those elements, a contribution to 
the saga of Charlie, and evidence of Chaplin's mastery of the medium 
he made peculiarly his own. 

t@, Development 

IN 1918, CHAPLIN ACCEPTED THE CONTRACT OFFERED HIM BY THE 

First National Film Company, on terms that gave him complete 
freedom in his work. The films he made for this company have 
unhappily been withdrawn. 

Among them, the trilogy — A Dog's Life, Shoulder Arms and 
Sunnyside — offer the fullest representation yet of the complex facets 
of Charlie's character, and therefore the most complete projection of 
Chaplin's essential self. A Dog's Life is primarily autobiography. The 
decor of the film reaches new heights, even for Chaplin, with its slum 
outskirts of an anonymous town, a no-man's-land of streets ending 
nowhere, or in vaguely defined waste spaces; a place of broken fences, 
melancholy, hopeless, despairing, with the miasma of abject poverty 
hanging over it. Here again is the adult Chaplin commenting on his 
own unhappy childhood, and this time taking it to the universal plane 
of the misery of all mankind. Though the film is a comedy, filled 
with side-splitting moments, the tragic undertones make themselves 
heard. 

Shoulder Arms was made in the middle of 1918, and released 
shortly before the Armistice. In releasing it then, Chaplin gave proof 
of his own form of moral courage, that impelled him later, in sadly 
similar circumstances, to make and issue The Great Dictator in 1940, 
a year after England's declaration of war on Fascism. 



101 

The anger and bitterness aroused by Chaplin's non-participation in 
the 1914-18 war had not abated when he released Shoulder Arms, and 
by so doing at once crystallized and justified the public statement he 
had made of his position. 

This film also had a notable set — just trenches; but trenches that 
ooze from every sandbag, every monstrous mass of clay, every wall 
sweating moisture, a heavy effluvium of boredom and monotony. 

Sunnyside came as an odd completion to this important trilogy. 
The desolate slum of A Dog's Life, the monstrous trenches of 
Shoulder Arms give way to an enchanted countryside shimmering 
under the rays of a magical sun. In spite of its comedy and burlesque, 
in spite of its half-hearted attempt to satirise a type of pastoral film 
popular at the time, Sunnyside is unique among all Chaplin's films for 
its highly developed poetic quality. 

These three films, ranging from stark realism to sunlit fantasy, 
from almost epic sorrow to the most light-hearted gaiety, are a mul- 
tiple expression of Charlie's complete personality. In them are pre- 
sented the solitary outcast generated in misery and poverty, despised 
and rejected of men; the valiant little Greatheart, Don Quixote; and 
the idealist poet. Linking these manifestations together is our realiza- 
tion that Charlie is more than Charlie, more than Chaplin. Since 
Chaplin first projected himself in the likeness of Charlie across the 
screens of the world, Charlie has grown, for all his littleness, to the 
stature of a Colossus. Genius outstrips its creation; and Charlie, 
arising directly out of Chaplin's personal saga, served to make that 
saga universal and eternal until we have, with this trilogy, the repre- 
sentative of all mankind. 

The ground now was prepared for The Kid, perhaps the best known 
and best remembered of Chaplin's earlier films. 

The theme of the film — the abandonment of an unwanted child, its 
reluctant adoption by Charlie, and their hazardous life together until 
the child, together with Charlie, is restored to his now famous and 
wealthy mother, is elementary and banal in its facile appeal to the 
emotions. But Chaplin, employing all his wealth of comedy, tragedy, 
and pathos, made of it a film of great beauty and tenderness. 

As in all his films — and this is one of the factors that put him in a 
class of his own — the obvious development of the film and its story 
reveal another and parallel development. The Kid — played so superbly 
by Jackie Coogan — is clearly another presentation of Charlie, so that 
we have in this film a dual personality, the adult and the child Charlie, 
and in both the same heart-catching quality. 

The Kid is an extension of A Dog's Life, and the dual presentation 
of the waif motif increases its desolation, as it increases its comedy. 



102 

At the end of the film, when Charlie has been cruelly awakened from 
his blissful dream by his old enemy the Policeman, to find that the 
Kid has been received into the sheltering arms of his mother, there is 
a moment of unbearable poignancy when Charlie realizes that those 
arms are willing to take him in also. His incredulity, bewilderment, 
dawning belief, and radiance, catch at the heartstrings, for Charlie has 
such unappeasable needs. 

With The Pilgrim Chaplin finished the series of films he was due 
to make for the First National Company. This film proves definitely 
that Charlie now is adult. The simplicities of childhood where much is 
hidden that cannot be expressed; the hesitations and confusions of 
adolescence, have yielded place to the full emergence of a personality 
as subtle and complex as Chaplin's own. 

Creator and creation, Chaplin and Charlie, are so closely linked as 
to be almost indivisible. In both, early promise has been vitally ful- 
filled, development of personality and artistry has reached great peaks. 
Chaplin is ripe now for his major films, and Charlie is no longer the 
youngest clown, but the greatest clown of all. 

After The Pilgrim, which was released in 1922, Chaplin was at last 
free to consider his future work with the United Artists Company, 
which he had formed three years before with Mary Pickford, Douglas 
Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffiths. 

His work for United Artists, from A Woman Of Paris, released in 
1923, to Monsieur Verdoux (1947), his last film to date, shows the 
irresistible evolution of his genius in its highest form. All that Chaplin 
had ever done in cinema, from the first curio Making A Living, of 
1914, through all the years of apprenticeship and experiment, was 
given in these great films what would seem to be its final and fullest 
form. 

Chaplin had progressively increased the range of his work, and the 
time taken over it, so that in the period 1923-1947, he produced seven 
major films, which fall into two groups. 

With one significant exception, Charlie the tramp is the hero of 
them all, a maturer Charlie, more human, more eloquent, less sublime. 
In the earlier group, he is tortured through his own humanity, exposed 
to greed, loneliness, malice, poverty; with man and nature both against 
him, finding shelter nowhere, nowhere any peace or any hope. The 
hopelessness of Charlie breaks through his former optimism until, in 
City Lights (1931), the last of this group, it cuts the future from 
beneath his feet, as the blind flower girl whose sight has been restored 
through Charlie's efforts, sees her benefactor, and laughs at the comic 
sight he makes. 

The last three films, Modern Times (1936), The Great Dictator 



103 

(1940), Monsieur Verdoux (1947) show another Charlie yet — the 
ardent crusader, who was there from the beginning, expressing with 
sly pantomime, with sharp satire, with humour and ridicule, his 
profound awareness and hatred of cruelty, vice and misery, of vanity, 
oppression, and the orgiastic destruction of war. All his work is an 
expression of a fundamental love of humanity, and hatred of its 
oppressors; all his work is a preparation for his annihilation of soulless 
industrialization in Modern Times; for the thunderous eloquence of his 
overthrow of fascism in The Great Dictator; for the cold, clear judg- 
ment of modern society, with its callous indifference to human dignity, 
security and life itself, that is the essence of Monsieur Verdoux, the 
apotheosis of them all, Charlie in his ultimate form to date. 

t©. Achievement 

IT IS CURIOUS THAT THE FIRST FILM CHAPLIN MADE FOR UNITED 

Artists was a mordant tragedy, from which Charlie was banished. 
Throughout the early work of Chaplin, the underlying tragic note has 
grown in insistence. From the beginning, Chaplin wished to make a 
tragedy, as fragments of a serious film to be called Life, dating from 
1915, can testify; an ambition to produce, not to play, Hamlet. It is 
possible that he wished to show Hollywood, who now tended to despise 
comedy, that he was capable of making a great and serious film; and 
it was well known that he had for a long time wished to give Edna 
Purviance a leading role of major importance. She was, as an artist, 
almost entirely the work of his hands, and he wanted to try her in an 
exacting part. Chaplin called upon all his great artist's patience, 
summoned all his gift, all his technique, to create what he clearly 
intended to be his tragic masterpiece; and produced by the end of 
1923, A Woman Of Paris, a work of unyielding pessimism, filled with 
a cruel and biting irony unlike any that had yet come from him. 

Apart from its significance in Chaplin's evolution as an artist, the 
film had a very great influence on cinema. It was an original film from 
which a school of cinematic art was derived — the ancestor of sophisti- 
cated drama in film; the progenitor of all films dealing with psycho- 
logical complexity. It was also the forerunner of simplicity of 
technique, the paring down to essentials that had always been typical 
of Chaplin's work, and which was destined to overthrow the fussy and 
complicated overstatement of early American film. This bareness of 
effect, so brilliantly successful in Chaplin's hands, counteracted the 
excessive use of technical effects much favoured at that time. More- 
over, as Seldes points out "When Chaplin made A Woman of Paris as 
producer and director, it was considered an idiosyncrasy, almost as if 



104 

he had chosen to do manual labour"; but the film gained because of 
it, and his example was followed by others. 

By the spring of 1924, Chaplin had started work on The Gold 
Rush, and in due course released what was to become his best-loved 
film, not excepting even The Kid. 

The visual beauty of The Gold Rush transcends even its comedy. 
Chaplin the poet saw the grandeur of the snow plains of Alaska as his 
decor, and put up against that dazzling expanse the black, dwarfed 
file of prospectors, the silhouette of Charlie, the burly outlines of 
Mack Swain. The film is a panorama in black and white, the most 
absolute use of the obvious resources of film that had ever been made, 
and the most successful. The decor thoughtfully provided by Nature 
and Chaplin's poetic imagination, plays a decisive part in the film. 
The white unbroken snows give an imponderable impression of 
solitude, of eternity, of man's littleness in the vast scheme of the 
universe. Against it, Charlie's small, gallant silhouette stands out in 
sharp relief — as when he sits forlorn in the middle of the empty plain, 
equipped for prospecting by the addition of a shawl to his bowler, cane 
and baggy trousers. The log cabin, where most of the drama is to be 
played out, achieves greater prominence because of this opposition of 
black and white. Even the cosy warmth of the saloon is enhanced 
because of the cold, still snows looming under a heavy sky just outside. 

Tragedy and comedy are so blended in The Gold Rush that the 
audience is kept throughout on the border-line between laughter and 
tears, the most perfect balance yet achieved by this tight-rope walker, 
expert in treading delicately on the verge of the opposite emotions. 

Charlie is a complete person here, filled with a rich humanity that 
strips him entirely of his earlier fantasy, his poetry, his almost mytho- 
logical presentation. Now his feet are firmly rooted on earth, in the 
snow. And he, who has always been up against society, is now up 
against nature itself. The perils and dangers that have always beset 
him are transmuted now from falling into ponds and being chased by 
policemen, into avalanches that carry his log cabin to the very edge of 
a precipice, where he rocks half-suspended over infinite space; or great 
black bears that dog his unknowing footsteps. 

Chaplin's building of the scenes, from the time of the snow-storm 
that shuts up the three prospectors in a small cabin amid the vast, 
oppressive silence of the snows, grows in tension to generate the 
gradual compelling hatred of each for the others. This building of 
tension continues between the two remaining after one has gone to 
seek help, based on a theme of hunger and fear. Comes the unforget- 
able scene of the stewed boots, consumed with grace, elegance, and 
difficulty by Charlie; the scenes that create an intense feeling of 




Charlie. The sadness and solitude of the clown 





The Pilgrim (1923) 



The Gold Rush (1925) 



Three aspects of Charlie 




The Circus (1928) 




Charlie 



Verdoux. Charlie 
with his desires 
realized 





Lust for Power. The Great Dictator (1940) 




The "Charlie" Clown. Charlie Rivels 



The Man behind the Mask 



113 

nervous panic, when things take on a malignant energy that forces him 
into terror — the bar that drops suddenly upon his head, the stove that 
burns him when he tries to avoid the bar; and then, when the feeling 
of panic is at its height, his companion goes mad, thinks Charlie is a 
chicken and tries to kill and eat him. It is a parody of the strong, 
silent man type of drama; it is also a bitter commentary on the 
hostility of men towards each other. 

Having created his peak of tension, Chaplin lets the film down 
gently into sentimentality and pathos. Charlie is drawn to his fellow 
men as the moth to the candle flame; and we are given the incom- 
parable shot of him just outside the threshold of the saloon, leaning 
slightly on his cane, the other hand hanging limp. All his bitter solitude 
is in that pose, and all his unsatisfied longing in the look he bends on 
Georgia Hale when he first catches sight of her. All his frustration is 
in the fact that she smiles at others, but does not see him. Charlie has 
travelled a long way from the guttersnipe of the Keystone days. 

c©^ Moment of Defeat 

AS SOON AS "THE GOLD RUSH" WAS FINISHED, CHAPLIN SOUGHT FOR 

the inspiration of his next film. A factor of interest in tracing the 
evolution of his genius lies in the recurrence of certain themes that 
have been in his mind for years, some eventually being used, others 
partly used, others never actually touched upon. We have seen how his 
desire to make a serious film brought about the fragmentary Life in 
1915 and A Woman Of Paris in 1923. An unpublished short, The 
Suicide, of early date, provided a basis for the scenes of the intended 
suicide in City Lights (1931). Amongst the most significant of ±e 
recurring motifs are those of Napoleon and Jesus Christ. The former 
dates back in spirit to the days of his childhood, when he played the 
Napoleon and led his fellow urchins into battle against their kind. 
Later, the desire to make a film on Napoleon gained increasing 
strength. Chaplin wished to present him not as a powerful general, 
but as "a sickly being, taciturn, almost morose, continually harassed by 
the members of his family". Here surely is an interesting transposition 
of self; and it may well be that the uprising and spread of fascism in 
Europe cured him of his passion for Napoleon; for certainly the 
nearest approach to the desired film of his hero is to be found in 
The Great Dictator, under the sign of the Double Cross ! 

It is a tragedy that the increased hostility, latent and overt, sur- 
rounding him and all that he does and is, will probably prevent him 
from ever accomplishing a film based on the life of Jesus Christ, about 
whom he writes in these terms — "I believe that the most powerful, 

K 



114 

most dynamic, the most important person who has ever lived has been 
terribly deformed by tradition. ... No one would prevent me from 
considering him as a splendid man, virile, full blooded, to whom one 
turns instinctively when one is in trouble. ... If I could produce a 
film on the story of Christ, I would show him welcomed with delirious 
joy by men, women and children; they would throng round him in 
order to feel his magnetism. Not at all a sad, pious, and stiff person, 
but a lonely man who has been the most misunderstood of all time". 

In search now of a theme, he chose one he had formerly called 
The Clown and now renamed The Circus, in which Charlie found 
himself lonely amid the exuberant gaiety of circus folk. Charlie's 
clowning was never so filled with grief as in The Circus. The frame- 
work of the film, its circus background, caused Chaplin to revert to a 
farcical comedy derived from his earlier days; but this serves only to 
point the deep sadness of the little clown, which pervades the whole 
film. 

Here Charlie is presented as a Don Quixote without exuberance or 
fire, Lewis Carroll's White Knight, adrift in the incomprehensible 
callousness of life. Only his essential resignation enables him to go on 
living in the alien world. Insensibly, as the film progresses, he becomes 
the essence of goodness up against all the evil and stupidity of the 
world. Charlie has shed for all time his precociousness, his malice, his 
knavery. 

The making of this film coincided with Chaplin's divorce from 
Lita Grey, and was indeed interrupted by the repercussions of the case 
and its effect on Chaplin. Certainly, in the presentation of Charlie in 
The Circus, Chaplin seems to be compensating himself. The film is 
heavy with the strain and fatigue he was undergoing at the time of its 
making, as for so long before. Charlie has lost his zest, his optimism, 
and has acquired instead an intense and resigned sadness. The lyrical 
quality of his work is concealed beneath a bitter philosophy, the poet 
overlaid by the satirist. 

His next film, City Lights (1931), released at a moment when wild 
enthusiasm for the new talking pictures was sweeping across the 
continents, presents once more the complete personality of Charlie, 
and what has clearly become the reiterated and significant symbols of 
Chaplin's work — the idealist tramp with his unquenchable love, com- 
passion, chivalry and goodness; the Girl, in this case blind, who is 
complementary to him, in need of his devotion and herself submissive, 
feminine and unattainable. The eccentric millionaire upon whom their 
fates depend is a new form of the deus ex machina, changing the social 
forces that beset and overwhelm them according to his incalculable 
whim. 



115 

City Lights shows an increase in the sadness of Charlie. Instead of 
his former jauntiness, his indifference to fate, his uncontrollable irony, 
there is a lassitude, an acceptance of unhappiness that was first indi- 
cated in The Gold Rush (1925), then came to shadow The Circus 
(1928), and finally in City Lights (1931) took so prominent a place it 
was as though Chaplin were expressing through Charlie the impact of 
cataclysmic effects in his own life and in the world of film — his 
unsavoury divorce case, and the coming of talkies. 

To the Charlie of City Lights Alexander Woolcott's accolade most 
properly belongs — "It must be said of Chaplin that he has created 
only one character, but that one, in his matchless courtesy, in his 
unfailing gallantry — his preposterous, innocent gallantry, in a world of 
gross Goliaths — that character is, I think, the finest gentleman of our 
time". 

t©^ Mastery 

ALL CHAPLIN'S WORK IS MARKED WITH TREMENDOUS FEELING, 

sometimes translated into terms of sentimentality and pathos, always 
vital and effective. As he gained in technique, experience, and financial 
and artistic independence, so he was able to express more fully the 
great torrent of feeling within him. The torment and tempest of his 
own life, the active and increasing hostility against him in America, 
affected, but did not check the torrent. These factors served to 
increase the tragic feeling in his work, made him reaffirm his identity 
with the underdog, caused him to clarify his feelings about society, 
about mankind, about the universe. 

In his last three films, he has made his unequivocal statements of 
his most passionate concern for humanity, and equally passionate 
hatred of all that impedes mankind in its struggle to survive. That this 
hatred was still expressed with hilarious comedy is part of the miracle 
of genius. 

Five years elapsed between the release of City Lights (1931) and 
that of Modern Times (1936); and the latter is evidence that in that 
intervening period, Chaplin recovered fully from the events that 
threatened to overcome him in the earlier years of his work with 
United Artists. The Charlie of City Lights was as nearly defeated as 
we had ever seen him, left cruelly without illusion or dream to sustain 
him at the end, as Chaplin himself had been left. 

Modern Times is as glowing with vitality and optimism, imper- 
tinence and humour, as City Lights was shadowed with lassitude, 
pessimism and pain. There could not be greater contrast in mood than 
there is between these two films chronologically next to each other. It 



116 

is as if Chaplin had overcome all his uncertainty concerning the 
introduction of dialogue into film, all his suffering over the calamitous 
ending of his second marriage, and had expressed this newly-acquired 
release in the astonishing dynamism and gaiety of this film. 

The Chaplin hallmark is put upon the film from the opening shot 
of sheep rushing through a gate, followed by one of workers coming up 
out of a subway; and by the stupendous satire of the factory decor, 
shining, sterile, inhuman, endlessly working at producing nothing. 
Charlie the intractable, Charlie the independent spirit, has become a 
factory hand. But Charlie never can be a factory worker. He demon- 
strates his incapacity, and incidentally satirizes the inhuman mechani- 
stion of industry, by failing to tighten a bolt on the endless conveyor 
belt. This small failure in routine upsets the whole complicated 
process until Charlie is caught in the machinery — only to demonstrate 
that if cogwheels are large enough, one may safely stroll among them, 
a ludicrous and brilliant anticlimax. In Modern Times, Charlie comes 
across another waif, a rebellious little guttersnipe, as different from 
gentle submissive Edna as any personality could be, the part admirably 
played by Paulette Goddard. In The Kid, Chaplin offered a dual 
presentation of the tramp, in childhood and maturity. Now he offers 
a parallel presentation of two waifs, outcast from society, and frus- 
trated in every attempt to secure their modest needs — a roof, food, 
and privacy. Every effort to secure their dream ends in the Black 
Maria; until at the end they go off jauntily towards the horizon, 
towards the unknown; and this time Charlie takes his female counter- 
part with him. 

There were many who wished to see a fundamentally political 
significance in this harsh criticism of modern times, this ironic indict- 
ment of the slavery of the machine. Quite apart from the fact that it 
is an absurdity to reduce to terms of political propaganda a work of 
art which shows at one level Charlie's perpetual resistance 
to mass law; and at another the total incapacity of society to supply 
the urgent needs of its people, we have Chaplin's own, constantly 
reiterated plea, formulated once more in 1947 — "For pity's sake, let's 
stop mixing up art with the shady political intrigues which go on all 
over the world". 

The evidence of the film itself does not support any opinion, adverse 
or laudatory, implying political bias. The worker, the sheeplike worker 
of the opening shots, the striker who follows any leader who happens 
to have a flag, is satirized as incisively as any other aspect of existence 
that earns Chaplin's condemnation. 

In this film Chaplin, as always, is expressing his feeling and his 
credo in human and universal, not in political, terms. His Little Man, 



117 

with his female counterpart, is seeking man's minimum requirements 
and is frustrated in the search through the soulless and inhuman 
demands of bigger and better production; the submerging of the 
individual in the mass. 

The Great Dictator (1940) released four years after Modern Times, 
was an inevitable sequel to the film in which he attacked and satirized 
a form of civilization which deprived mankind of its basic needs. 

In 1918, in the weary last year of the first world- war, Shoulder 
Arms set the very trenches rocking with laughter. Now, in the first 
year of the war against Fascism, Chaplin stripped the megalomaniacs 
of Germany and Italy of their delusion of grandeur and shrivelled 
them to Carlyle's "forked radishes" through the mockery of laughter. 

Hugh Kingsmill, in an interesting portrait of Charlie Chaplin, 
symbol of the weary disillusioned Little Man of Western Europe, 
suffering from the social disintegration following the 1914-1918 war, 
draws the following parallel between Chaplin and Hitler — "What the 
Little Man of the 'Gold Rush' desired was money and women, what 
Hitler desired was power, these desires forming together the sum of 
what most men want from the world. Hitler, who was born in the 
same week of April, 1889, as Chaplin, was his complement, not his 
antithesis, the Napoleon of mass consciousness as Chaplin was its 
Byron." 

There is something that excites the imagination in the thought of 
these two world famous men, born in the same month of the same year 
in similar poverty and obscurity, pursuing their parallel destinies from 
opposite aims, the one driven by hatred, the other by compassion, 
until, in their maturity and universal fame, Hitler exerted all his 
power to conquer the world; while Chaplin, having already conquered 
the world, destroyed, with the power of laughter, the pretensions of 
the other Little Man. 

Chaplin had always been interested in the dictator mentality: and 
Sam Goldwyn said of him, "Chaplin loves power — as no one else 
whom I have ever seen loves it". There was in him a natural under- 
standing upon which to base his acute and brilliant study of Adenoid 
Hynkel, the man in whom love of power derived from knowledge of 
lack of power and had become megalomania. "Hitler, to me, beneath 
that stern and foreboding appearance he gives in news reels and news 
photos, actually is a small, mean and petty neurasthenic. Mussolini 
suggests an entirely different character — loud, noisy, boastful, a 
peasant at heart." Here, in Chaplin's own words, is the genesis of 
Hynkel and Napaloni. 

The comedy of the film is all contained in the part dealing with 
the dictators; its sentimentality and pathos are expressed in terms of 



118 

the little Jewish barber, an oddly foreshortened view of Charlie, and 
Hannah, the Jewish girl he befriends. The opposition of the dictator 
and the barber, which is the core of the film and its indictment of 
tyrants, is underlined by Chaplin's masterly use of speech. From the 
dictator pours a torrent, a spate, a flood of words, picked up and 
magnified by microphones and loudspeakers, denunciatory and 
hysterical, a prominent element in the caricature. The little barber 
scarcely speaks at all, and still expresses himself mainly through 
gesture, as Charlie always did. The two personalities are brilliantly 
presented in terms of speech; and this is the more remarkable when 
we realize that this is Chaplin's first talking film. 

One other interesting point arising from the use Chaplin makes of 
speech in his first talkie, lies in the effect it has upon Charlie. Already, 
in appearing as the Jewish barber, antithesis of Hynkel, member of a 
persecuted people, Charlie has lost some of his transcendental quality, 
his universality. He loses more now that speech has come to him. 
Charlie expressed the whole of himself and of mankind in mime. 
Words impede and embarass him; and we feel, with a nostalgia keen 
as pain, that the Charlie we knew has gone from us. 

A major part of the film is given to Charlie's recurrent yearning for 
the little home, the plot of land, roots in the earth, harbourage and 
rest, which first made its tentative appearance as early in the saga as 
1915, in The Tramp; and which has reappeared, in one form or 
another, at intervals ever since, from A Dog's Life to City Lights, 
until in Modern Times it was nakedly presented as the simple aspira- 
tion of all men. Now, in The Great Dictator, this yearning is crystal- 
lized, illuminated and explained as part of the Jewish tragedy, the 
despairing cry of the persecuted race. The second part of the film is 
wholly dominated by this dream of the Promised Land, which, as so 
much else in Chaplin's work, is at once intensely personal to him; and 
a presentation of the age-old problem that has contemporary 
significance. 

The end of the film was so unexpected that most reviewers, and 
some critics, were taken aback, and Chaplin was severely trounced for 
betraying the artistic unity and integrity of his work. The little Jewish 
barber, forced to impersonate Hynkel, is called upon to deliver one of 
the famous harangues. Without warning or preparation, Chaplin him- 
self suddenly takes over. Satire, ridicule, comedy, pathos, the dualism 
and opposition of the main characters all forgotten, Chaplin the 
crusader speaks to mankind with burning sincerity, with absolute 
simplicity, with resolute rhetoric, taking as his large theme the brother- 
hood of man.* The screen is filled with the gigantic mask, not of 

* See Appendix B. 



119 

Charlie nor of Hynkel, but of Chaplin; the voice is the ardent voice of 
Chaplin, and the torrent of feeling is his own, with a tremendous 
impact and power. We are reminded of Roger Manvell's comment 
that Chaplin's philosophy is so deeply felt that it is becoming "almost 
messianic". 

Modern Times and The Great Dictator both bore witness to the 
fact that Chaplin had formulated the ideas hovering on the verge of 
full expression in all his films from the beginning. His dispersed and 
tentative, almost oblique, attack on the society of his time was defined 
in both; and they each contained the most complete presentation of 
the dualism in Charlie, first seen in The Kid. In Modern Times, 
Charlie discovered his feminine counterpart; in The Great Dictator, 
the duality was expressed more subtly still in opposite terms — the little 
Jewish barber, and Hynkel who sought to destroy him, representing 
an opposition in Chaplin's own character, the opposite sides of his own 
qualities and defects. 

Earlier in his career, Chaplin had made a series of films that formed 
a trilogy that was in effect the summing-up of his work in film to that 
date— A Dog's Life (1918), Shoulder Arms (1918), Sunnyside (1919). 
Eighteen years later, the pattern repeats itself. With Modern Times 
(1936) he begins another trilogy destined to include The Great 
Dictator (1940) and Monsieur Verdoux (1947), and to provide a 
second and maturer summing-up. 

t©^ Monsieur Verdoux 

IN SPITE OF THE YEARS BETWEEN "MODERN TIMES" (1931) AND 

Monsieur Verdoux (1947) the films in this second trilogy tread upon 
each other's heels; and in Monsieur Verdoux, Chaplin brings to a head 
his attack on society, and the signficance of the repeated dualism in 
Charlie. 

It is easier to understand Monsieur Verdoux, and to begin to appre- 
ciate the countless ramifications of its theme, and the artistry of its 
presentation, when it is analysed in its relation to Chaplin's total work, 
which is itself the exact expression of his own reaction to the experi- 
ences and feeling of his life. Many of Chaplin's admirers were dis- 
appointed in Monsieur Verdoux, many others bewildered. This was 
largely due to a failure to understand that here was not an isolated 
film, with Chaplin playing a new part in a somewhat macabre plot. 
It was the latest stage of Chaplin's continued attack upon society, 
begun in his first films, gaining in anger and ardour and impetus 
through the years, increased by his own persecution until, in these last 
three films he decisively gave tongue to his hatred. 



120 

Monsieur Verdoux can be no disappointment to those who have 
followed the unhesitating course of Chaplin's artistic and personal 
evolution; it becomes for them a fulfilment of promise, rich in 
symbolism. It is a major paradox, more subtle than anything Chaplin 
ever did before. 

Much was made of the fact that Chaplin was said to have based the 
film upon Landru, but it would be as absurd to overestimate the 
importance of sources in this case as in Shakespeare's. The outline of 
the character Verdoux is similar to that of Landru, a similar social 
psychology serves to explain them both; and they were both excellent 
family men! Landru's "magnetic eye" is gloriously caricatured in 
Verdoux's seduction scenes. But that is all, and it was clearly never 
Chaplin's purpose to present a bowdlerized life of Landru. 

A source of greater significance in the film is to be found in an 
element drawn from modern American society — the preponderance of 
wealthy widows who form a parasitic shell upon the living organism 
of Society, maintaining their wealth at all costs while contributing 
nothing to the organism supporting them. Verdoux's murders are a 
symbol of Chaplin's desire to exterminate the parasites, who, by their 
very existence, force wide open the gap between wealth and poverty, 
take away Verdoux's cherished home and reduce thousands like him 
to penury. This desire is stimulated no doubt by his romanticism 
towards women, prone to turn to bitter hatred of those among them 
who tried to destroy him. 

Once the social scene is set, Chaplin drives home his condemnation 
of its folly and evil by taking its guiding principles to their logical 
limit. That indifference to individual liberty, callousness towards 
human suffering, carelessness towards life itself, that are for him the 
basic factors in modern society become part and parcel of Verdoux's 
modus vivendi. Forced into an impasse by social chaos, he applies the 
principles underlying that chaos to secure for himself and his family 
an adequate livelihood. So that finally, society, in condemning him, 
condemns itself; in destroying him, implies the necessity for its own 
destruction; in denouncing him as anti-social, reduces itself to terms of 
anarchy. Therein lies the essential paradox of Monsieur Verdoux-, and 
the core of Chaplin's most scathing indictment of the times in which 
we live. 

Another profoundly interesting aspect of the film lies in its presen- 
tation of Charlie and his duality, the subtlest yet. For Verdoux is the 
little tramp in reverse, the other side of Charlie. 

Chaplin has in his possession thousands of feet of film of himself in 
magnificent costumes, the perfect dandy. That fact is significant, taken 
with the ragged elegance of the little tramp of the early films, and the 



121 

aristocratic dignity contrasting so absurdly with his outcast state. In 
City Lights, Charlie wore tails with an air, knew how to drive a Rolls, 
and smoke an expensive cigar; and many years before that, Chaplin 
had told H. G. Wells, "I have always desired to look natty"; and 
described with detail and affection his attempts to look a "masher" 
for the young Hetty of his early love affair. 

There lies the clue to Verdoux, who is Charlie with his desires 
realized. Verdoux has the elegance Charlie longed for; the beautiful 
little home, gentle wife, and healthy son that Charlie dreamed of. 
Verdoux has an established position in the society Charlie only saw 
from the outside. Charlie desired women, Verdoux conquers them. 
Charlie was terrified of policemen, and ran away from them; Verdoux 
makes fools of them, and then gives himself into their hands. Charlie 
walked off cheerfully into the unknown, and so did Verdoux, but with 
a difference. Verdoux is then the other face of Charlie, but with the 
same doom upon him. Destiny, once more in the guise of social 
forces, threatens to snatch from him these realized desires — home, 
wealth, position, elegance. And Verdoux the cynic, reinforced by 
Charlie the sentimentalist, fights Society with its own weapons in a 
desperate attempt to retain his dreams at last made real. 

The dualism of Charlie is at its most subtle in this film, for it lies 
within Verdoux himself, where good and evil are united. In its earliest 
form this dualism was simply another demonstration of the waif 
motif, with evil an exterior force. But Charlie, growing older and 
wiser, realized the evil that lies within. Charlie and the Kid, Charlie 
and the girl waif, were against Society. Then Charlie became at once 
the symbol of a persecuted race, and of the tyranny that oppressed it, 
as though Chaplin were aware that even Charlie could not escape his 
share of responsibility for social chaos. Now, in Monsieur Verdoux 
he has united the antagonists in one person. 

Verdoux the home lover, the family man, accepts society's vicious 
terms, to become Verdoux the male prostitute and murderer; Chaplin 
has made the enormous step forward, the realization of the latent evil 
in each one of us, ready to flower in its proper soil. Charlie the 
pure in heart can become Verdoux the amoralist, given wrong 
conditions. 

The antagonists then dwell together; so that when Verdoux meets 
the young girl waif, down and out, yet still filled with faith in 
humanity, he cannot kill her, because there is in her the essence of the 
little tramp. One part of Verdoux recognizes her; and renders the 
other powerless against her. 

Through his very existence, Verdoux makes Society aware of its 
guilt (much as Chaplin is an ever present thorn in the flesh of 



122 

American Society). He is therefore condemned to death, with all the 
trappings of justice, through much the same impulse ±at brings about 
a declaration of war, when no reasonable solution can be found for 
political or economic chaos. 

Should anyone doubt that Verdoux is Charlie, fighting with new 
and more sinister weapons his lifelong battle, the last scene of the film 
must necessarily dispel his uncertainty. For as we watch him go out to 
the guillotine, a small, ageing man with drooping shoulders, back to 
the camera, between two gendarmes, we are irresistibly compelled to 
remember the little tramp setting off jauntily to the unknown horizon, 
to new adventure. There is the sudden catching at the heart again, and 
this time wi± the revelation — that the road leading nowhere, along 
which the little tramp so often set out with a jaunty whirling of his 
cane at the end of his films — led in the end to death. The Policeman 
has caught up with Charlie; and Fate, in the shape of Society, has 
annihilated him at last. We do not quite know whether Charlie or 
Society has won the last round of a contest that has been fiercely and 
comically waged for nearly forty years. 

t©^ Charlie 

CHARLIE IS THE UNIQUE EXPRESSION OF THE POETIC AND THE PHILO- 

sophic art of Chaplin, the focal point of so many planes of experience, 
thought, and emotion, at once personal to Chaplin and common 
to humanity, that he is more gargantuan than any creature of 
Rabelais. 

The poetic quality of Charlie developed early in his saga. It is most 
evident in his movement, that was never clumsy or uncontrolled in the 
early slapstick days, and that became increasingly a delight to watch 
as his character developed. It reached its fullest expression in the 
balletic shaping of films like The Champion (1915) and One A.M. 
(1916), and in the dance sequences contained in several of his early 
films, notably Sunnyside (1919). Charlie dancing is Charlie liberated 
from all corporeal burdens, a lyrical expression of the spirit of the 
little tramp that transcends his outward manifestation; for remember 
that Charlie dances in the grotesque vestments of the tramp. 

On a similar plane, the several dream sequences in Charlie's films 
—in The Bank (1915), Sunnyside (1919), The Kid (1921) have all 
the same lyrical quality. Charlie enters into a fantastic world remote 
from the sorrows of mankind, the travail of society, and the burden of 
his own solitude. Those are specific elements in the poetic pilgrimage 
of the little tramp, who throughout the whole course of his film life, 
pursues the unattainable, so expressing the deepest hunger of the 



125 

human spirit. His attitude to life — the appraisal and rejection of 
Society, his constant quest for something greater than himself, some 
object of devotion — is as poetic as Galahad's search for the Holy 
Grail. Indeed, Charlie is "a very parfit, gentil Knight" and the shrewd 
but kindly eye of Dan Chaucer would have known him. 

His dancing, his dreams, his pursuit of the unattainable, are all 
poetic; and so is Charlie himself. He is outside Society as a child is 
outside, a law unto himself, unaware of any moral or ethical signifi- 
cance but his own, applying to his environment a child's absolute 
judgment. Through those clear eyes, sometimes puzzled, sometimes 
wistful, sometimes ironic, we see ourselves in all our human frailty, 
but with its emphasis shifted, so that it is all a little ridiculous, as well 
as moving. We look upon ourselves with Charlie's vision, with irony 
and compassion, as though we were entirely detached from our own 
activities. 

Chaplin's art is philosophic as well as poetic; Charlie is more there- 
fore than an endearing little fellow, or a lyrical dancer, or a clown. 
When, in The Tramp (1915) Charlie set off down that long road, 
dejectedly at first, then with jaunty eagerness to seek unknown adven- 
ture; when, in The Bank (1915) he suddenly looked out upon the 
audience with eyes holding the age-long grief of man, he began ta 
take on the universal quality that was to lift him among ±e immortals. 
While Charlie blundered and failed, evaded cops, cuckolded husbands 
in imagination if not in fact, fell into ponds, tumbled downstairs, slid 
across skating rinks on his backside, joined the Army, unwillingly 
adopted an abandoned child, wistfully observed the gay happenings of 
Vanity Fair, survived policemen and bullies and bears and avalanches, 
tried to assuage his insatiable thirst for beautiful women, escaped into 
a world of unreality and was rudely shaken out of it; while men of all 
creeds and races and nations throughout the world gave themselves up 
to mirth, from the high pitched giggle to the great guffaws of 
unrestrained belly laughter; while the years brought mankind from 
chaos through insecurity to disaster, the little tramp threw a gigantic 
shadow before him. It was the shadow of Charlie's silhouette, multi- 
plied a thousandfold. For that one small figure showed himself 
increasingly to contain within him the loneliness and the fear, the 
desire to evade responsibility, the hopes and the pathos of the univer- 
sal soul. Charlie, with his persistent battle for the individual spirit 
against the dragons and monsters of modern society that would defeat 
it, was heroic. His gentleness, his gallantry, his compassionate heart 
aching to enfold and protect those even weaker than himself, placed 
him among the great gentlemen of all time. 

He became the quintessence of the undefeated. Their unyielding: 



124 

spirit shone in the little vagabond. Charlie — against whom every man's 
hand was turned, who had no place of his own upon this earth, for 
whom there was no love, nor any of the natural rights of man — 
Charlie was unconquerable. All the social cruelties and callousness of 
his day and age bewildered him; the great hand of destiny reached out 
to crush him between destructive greedy fingers. Charlie could not be 
crushed. And, even at the end when, as Verdoux, he was condemned to 
death, it was Society itself that was condemned. Even in death, Charlie 
triumphed over his dragon; and in so doing won a notable 
victory over everything that seeks to enslave and debase the human 
spirit. 

Charlie seemed a puny David; but the potency of his weapons of 
satire and ridicule were shown by the howls of rage and pain and fear 
that came from the Goliaths he attacked. Charlie never changed, only 
expressed himself more clearly, more pungently, grew increasingly to 
the stature of a colossus. 

Charlie is kin to all the heroes of mythology, and shares their 
unalterable destiny; but he is twin brother to Don Quixote, that knight 
of the sad countenance. The shabby knight is the shabby tramp, and 
both have elegance. In both burns the same fire of chivalry, both set 
forth on the same quest for the ideal, both built for themselves fantas- 
tic worlds nearer the ideal than reality could ever come. In both, truth 
and candour, gentleness and compassion dwelt side by side with 
inflexibility of will and purpose. Only Don Quixote was not so lonely. 
Rosinante and Sancho Panza, in their different ways, offered him 
fellowship. Charlie pursued his quest alone, unloved, sustained only 
fay the intensity of his inner life. 

Even when the establishment of talkies forced him into speech, the 
demand for Charlie was still universal — Monsieur Verdoux was given 
a special sound track in Hindustani; the dubbing was undertaken by 
a company in South Africa, and after its release in that country, the 
translation was shown in India. But before these complexities were 
made necessary, Charlie had spoken to white and black and yellow and 
Ted men in the universal language of comedy and pathos. He spoke to 
all mankind with the least gesture of his miraculous hands, the lift 
of an eyebrow, the droop of a shoulder. He spoke with his little cane 
and his large boots, with the white mask of his Pierrot face, and his 
eloquent eyes. In his silence, he spoke directly to each and every man, 
and allowed him to translate into his own tongue, against his own 
national background, the great basic truths of humankind that he 
presented to them. Charlie was never more eloquent than when he 
uttered no word, never funnier than when he suffered in silence the 
slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. 



125 
c©^ Man of Many Talents 

SO FABULOUS A CREATION AS CHARLIE IMPLIES A CREATOR OUT OF 

the ordinary, gifted with extraordinary talents. Chaplin's strength, and 
therefore Charlie's, lies in the fact that his genius has shown itself in 
multiple form, so that each of his films is entirely the result of his own 
creative impetus, and attains therefore an homogeneity denied to all 
o±er films. 

Chaplin is a superlative mime; words have never been necessary to 
his work, and he alone of all the pioneers of film made no attempt to 
reproduce the verbal technique of the stage when he entered films. 
Mime is among the most ancient of the arts, and Chaplin the present 
master of it. May Reeves, among others, has instanced his gift, as 
when he acted for her benefit an unfortunate hunt with the Duke of 
Westminster. So vividly did he present the horrors of that chase that 
she saw him clearly in the hunting kit that was too large for him — the 
hunting pink with its tails trailing on the ground, the cuffs falling over 
his small hands, his waistcoat flapping over a lean stomach, and head 
gear that covered his eyes, and folded his ears in two. He could only 
just ride, and the horse took advantage of him. So wonderfully did he 
mime the scene that it was as though she were watching one of his 
films. 

His Pierrot mask is more expressive in its immobility than the most 
frenzied contortions of the ham actor. In his mime and in his acting, 
Chaplin shows a subtlety, a technique, a sensitiveness that are without 
parallel. 

As a dancer, he enters the highest ranks. No one with knowledge of 
dancing and choreography who has seen Chaplin move would deny 
him his place among the great ones; and most people who have met 
him or worked with him have noted what Martha Raye calls "his 
exquisite ballet-dancer gait". 

Mime, actor, dancer blend into a comedian who ranges from 
grossest farce to most delicate satire, that is burnished with tears and 
loaded with grief even while it compels the heartiest laughter. As if 
they were flickering along through the old Bioscope, visions come 
crowding fast, and the ghost of past laughter is in the air — Charlie, in 
MabeVs Strange Predicament (1914), with the backward slant of the 
very tipsy, trying to conquer a staircase; his epic struggle with a folding 
wall bed possessed of a daemon in One A.M. (1916); his appearance 
in animal skin and bowler in His Prehistoric Past (1914), the hilarious 
prize fight in The Champion (1916), the riotous happenings on the 
farm in The Tramp (1915). Even the increasing satire and tragedy of 
his films could not check the ebullience of his comedy. Shoulder Arms 



126 

(1918), which told the bitter truth about war was nevertheless the film 
which had, among many others, the brilliant gag of the submerged 
head resting on the submerged pillow in the flooded dug-out. The 
Circus (1926), one of Chaplin's saddest films, contained some of his 
happiest comedy — the tightrope walk complicated by monkeys, the 
chase through the gallery of distorting mirrors; while all the Hynkel 
part of The Great Dictator (1940) makes full use of Chaplin's endless 
capacity for comic invention. Every film brings with it the memory of 
great comedy, of spent laughter. 

Chaplin the interpretative artist comes then to his work loaded with 
more gifts in four different categories of expression — mime, acting, 
dancing and comedy — than most men have in any one of them; and 
that would be enough to secure him a memorable place in the world 
of entertainment. 

His abundant creative vitality overflows. Charlie, expressing his 
poetic and philosophic self through the highly skilled interpretative 
gifts of his creator, is given still greater scope through the fact that 
fie is produced, directed, edited, and later given musical accompani- 
ment by that same Chaplin who first engendered him, then interpreted 
him, and finally controlled the whole of his expression and the medium 
in which he was expressed. Chaplin is very nearly as fabulous as 
Charlie. 

The singlehearted purpose, the desire to have his work come whole 
and entire from his own hands and brain, the devotion and patience 
of the artist were shown by Chaplin when the coming of talking films 
caused him most furiously to think while he was making City Lights 
(1931) and to decide that the film must have a musical sound-track 
accompaniment. He was an accomplished executant; for three months 
he studied the composer's craft, and when he had mastered it, he 
composed the music for his completed film. He himself conducted the 
orchestra which played the music, so that City Lights, in spite of its 
unusual addition, was still Chaplin's whole work. 

Chaplin the creator of Charlie is as fabulous an artist as his creation 
would lead us to suppose — indeed, Alexander Woolcott, in his lyrical 
appreciation of City Lights, goes so far as to say, "I would be pre- 
pared to defend the proposition that this darling of the mob is the 
foremost living artist". 

His superb cinematic imagination is betrayed in everything he does, 
and certainly in his writing.* His book, My Wonderful Visit, written 
in a clipped nervous style, intensely personal, suddenly brings home 
the atmosphere of places and things, as when he describes the mystery 
of Limehouse at dusk — "There is a tang of the east in the air, living, 

* See Appendix B. 



127 

moving, in this murky atmosphere, that is more intense even for the 
occasional dim light that peers out into the soft gloom from attic 
windows and storerooms, or municipal lights that gleam on the street 
corners. . . . And through it all I have the feeling that things trivial, 
portentous, beautiful, sordid, cringing, glorious, simple, epochal, hate- 
ful, lovable are happening behind closed doors. I people all those 
shacks with girls, boys, murders, shrieks, life, beauty". Or the Thames 
waterside, the atmosphere of the Garrick Club, the physical aspects of 
poverty — the decayed and broken houses, the dirty littered streets, the 
little shops loaded with cheap goods. His alert eye selects, and his pen 
records the camera- worthy angles of everything he sees. All this 
illuminates a statement he once made to H. G. Wells : "The only way 
I notice things is on the run. Whatever keenness of perception I have 
is momentary, fleeting. I observe all in ten minutes, or not at all"; and 
explains too the imaginative detail of all his films. 

Everything in him marks the artist, and nothing more than his 
endless quest for perfection, his inability ever to be satisfied with the 
results of his wholehearted, sensitive, meticulous work. Each film com- 
pleted becomes for him only the stepping stone to the next; and 
Chaplin's severest critic has been more lenient to his work than he 
has ever been himself. 

Beneath the specific expressions of his artistry — mime, acting, 
dancing, the making of films — is to be found the poet and the 
musician. Sam Goldwyn has said of him, "He is a poet — the great 
poet of the screen. His fierce rebellions against man-made fetters, 
which would trammel the individual soul in its progress towards 
complete expression, his sensitiveness to impression, his combination 
of emotionality and complete detachment — these ally him in spirit 
with the youngest and fieriest of bards". 

The musician, so closely akin to the poet, is present in Chaplin. He 
has made a prolonged study of this other art, until now he has 
mastered the violin, the 'cello, the organ; and is able to compose his 
own film music, and conduct its orchestration. Chaplin's energy is 
protean, and impels him to lead the lives of many artists, creative and 
interpretative, in his unique person. 

t@^ Chaplin at Work 

MAX LINDER, WHOSE OWN INCOMPARABLE WORK IN THE EARLY DAYS 

of French film delighted Chaplin, gave the latter a full accolade as 
early as 1919 when he wrote, "It is impossible to get any idea of the 
continuous and highly intelligent effort of Charlie Chaplin in his 
work. He calls me his teacher, but, for my part, I have been lucky to 



128 

get lessons at his school. He works for the camera with the minutest 
care". 

Linder, a great artist himself, was quick to perceive and commend 
in the young Chaplin a constant preoccupation with perfection. 
Already at that time, only four years after he had entered films, he 
was proving himself an able and imaginative producer, so that, again 
according to Linder, "from first to last, spectators of every race, and 
of every type of mind, could follow the evolution of his thought and 
the very finest touches of his wit". 

To this testimony, one of his early secretaries, Elsie Codd, added 
amusing detail — of days and nights of bad temper, during what she 
called the "incubation period", which began when some comic incident 
in real life had inspired him to start thinking about a new film. After 
this brooding period, which sometimes took him off alone to Catalina 
Island, he would expound his ideas to a few chosen friends, using their 
comments as a stimulus to further ideas. Once the theme had grown 
clear and fixed, there was no more delay or solitude. The film once 
started, all was fire and fury, endless patience and concentration, until 
it was done. 

Chaplin on the job was from the beginning absolute master of every 
detail. Each member of his company, dressed and made-up, was 
inspected by him before the day's shooting began. Each scene was 
described in detail, with a joyousness and vitality that made working 
with him, in spite of, or perhaps because of, his determined search for 
perfection, an enjoyment and a unique experience. In the early days, 
a super of considerable experience said of him, "He is so kind and 
patient, and above all he's so different somehow"; while Martha Raye, 
who took part in Monsieur Verdoux (1947) said that to work with an 
artist like Chaplin was not only an honour and a privilege, but 
enormous fun. "For us all, Charlie is the tops!" 

The scene once explained, the players rehearsed their parts end- 
lessly, Chaplin having interpreted every single role, to such a degree 
that Miss Codd is able to state "without exaggeration, I think 
I can say that he has played every character in every one of his 
comedies". 

Throughout the whole rehearsal period, Chaplin's unflagging 
vitality and enthusiasm whipped his players into an excitement that 
made them give of their best. He was himself a protean figure, now 
an old gent puffing along in anger, now a simple maiden bowed in 
grief, now a masher swaggering into a park, now the harassed mother 
of many children; always building the compact lines of his perfect 
comedies, dovetailing cause and effect, paring down to essentials, 
inventing the most fantastic comedy gags, sweeping everyone before 



129 

him into the fanatical blaze of his unleashed creative power, and his 
unbounded energy. 

When, after exhausting and exhilarating repetitions, his exacting 
standards were as nearly satisfied as they could ever be, Chaplin the 
producer was transformed into Chaplin the director, who gave to the 
camera the same meticulous attention the other had given to rehearsing 
the scene. Sometimes, in those early days of improvisation, he would 
think of a new idea when the camera had finished shooting, rehearse 
and record it immediately, while inspiration was at fever heat within 
him. 

Every morning, Chaplin began by seeing the previous day's work, 
noting the comparative merits of the variations on a single theme, so 
that later, as he built and cut his film, a spool the length of a whole 
comedy would be reduced to a minute's showing time . 

Nor did his preoccupation with every aspect of his work end in the 
studio. He has described the way in which he finds himself continually 
observing people, and watching their reactions, relative to his films — 
"When I am watching one of my own films at a public performance, I 
keep one eye on the screen, and the other and my two ears on the 
spectators. I notice what makes them laugh and what does not. If, for 
example, at several performances the public does not laugh at some 
touch which I meant to be funny, I at once set to work to find what 
was wrong with the idea or its execution, or perhaps with the process 
of photographing it. And very often I notice a little laugh from some 
gesture which was not studied, and then I prick up my ears, and try 
to find out why this particular point has made them laugh. In a way, 
when I go to see one of my films I am like a tradesman watching what 
his customers are carrying or buying or doing. And just as I observe 
the public in a theatre to see what makes it laugh, so I observe it to 
find ideas for comic scenes." 

Chaplin has taken into the complex machinery of modern film- 
making all his artist's integrity. Now and then, his collaborators find 
themselves back in the early days of film making, for Chaplin is 
autocratic in his work, and if it pleases him to introduce elements from 
the Keystone days into his latest films, or make use of outmoded 
technique, no one would care to oppose him. His anger is terrible when 
his decisions are questioned; but he is capable of sober reflection after 
an outburst, and of finally accepting a tentative suggestion, if he 
afterwards realizes that it is better than his own. 

The colossal impetus of Chaplin's attack upon his work astounds the 
people who work with him. He demands everything from them, 
exhausts them, but himself works harder, and for longer hours, than 
even his most devoted henchman. While he is working on a film, his 

L 



130 

nerves are stretched to breaking point, and he is tensed to such a pitch 
that all his technicians work twice as hard and twice as fast as they 
had believed possible. 

Chaplin detests the apparatus of his medium — the cameras, the 
microphone, the lights, the travelling stages, accepting them balefully 
as necessary evils, but giving all his interest to the rehearsal of the 
takes, and driving his continuity-girl into near insanity with his blithe 
indifference to the need for exact repetition of detail in consecutive 
shots. To this day, he first takes the scenes that appeal to him particu- 
larly, going haphazardly from set to set, and increasing the burdens of 
his script and continuity girls and his associate producers until only 
his integrity and his charm save him from rebellion or desertion. 

When the moment for shooting has come, he is wholly absorbed, 
his pockets crammed with last-minute ideas, gags, changes in decor 
scribbled on odd scraps of paper through the wakeful hours of the 
night; first at the studio, and last to leave it, sometimes never leaving 
it for days on end. 

Side by side with the volcanic Chaplin entirely taken up with his 
work goes the amusing fellow-worker of the old days. He is still 
capable, in a moment's pause between scenes, of launching into vivid 
impersonations, impassioned dramatic scenes, a piano concerto or a 
little light fooling, so that the executives who a moment before were 
breathing fire and fury before the erratic demands made upon them, 
relax under the magic of the Chaplin who had known how to hold 
crowds enthralled. 

As soon, however, as the next scene is prepared, the momentary 
relaxation is immediately cut short, and Chaplin plunges into work 
again with the same ardour and the same fury, taking a scene twenty, 
thirty, forty times, until it approaches his requirements. 

In spite of his apparently erratic methods, his refusal to save time 
by shooting scenes in sequence, his insistence on long rehearsal periods, 
and multiple takes for every shot, Chaplin can complete a film in 
minimum time if he chooses — Monsieur Verdoux took exactly twelve 
weeks, and no one in Hollywood who knew his me±ods would believe 
it. This in itself is proof that Chaplin is always master of the chaos 
into which he plunges his studios while he is on the job. 

Dressed like a tramp, driving himself in a battered Ford, tearing 
like a whirlwind through the studios, Chaplin invariably brings his 
chosen rabbit out of the hat. He tends to spend an increasing length of 
time over the preparation of his films. When he had bought out Orson 
Welles over the Verdoux theme, he spent four years over the writing 
of the scenario, brooding over it, leaving it for a while; returning to it 
with renewed eagerness, determined to give the scenario all the time 



131 

it required for its development. There is never anything hasty or 
unfinished in any part of Chaplin's work, in spite of his impetuousness. 

His contribution to film is immeasurable. Of the pioneers in 
America, he was the first true creator in the new medium; and the 
only one to apply, from the beginning, film technique to film craft. 
In the earliest films, he stands out as the only player who did not 
open and shut his mouth in what seemed a silent parody of human 
speech, who did not use extravagant and uncontrolled gesture to 
express emotion, as did all the others. Chaplin used his face and his 
body, all its movement, and its stillness, to express his character in 
terms of pure film. He set about his own independent voyage of 
discovery, and moulded his medium according to the exigencies of 
his creative expression. Because of his initially right approach, he was 
the creator of his art, and invented the form it took. With him, silent 
film reached its highest and ultimate limits. 

A clock taken to pieces is not a clock and does not go; a ballet 
analysed in terms of decor, costume, music, choreography is neither a 
ballet nor an aesthetic experience. So a book that analyses a legendary 
figure and its creator tends to destroy their essential quality. The 
danger is that he who takes the clock to pieces cannot put it together 
again; he who takes Charlie to pieces to find out what makes him go 
may lose sight of the whole creation. Yet Charlie is, however handled, 
indestructible; and able to pick up the pieces himself, through the 
irresistible force of his own personality, and the affection and 
memories of the millions who grew up with him. 

t@^ His Lasting Fame 

TWENTY YEARS AGO, EMIL LUDWIG, THE WELL-KNOWN PUBLICIST 

and author, interviewed Chaplin for the Viennese newspaper, Neue 
Freie Presse. He was immediately struck with Chaplin's air of tran- 
quillity, which he had not expected, since Chaplin had never shown 
any signs before of that inner calm which brings with it a tranquil 
presence; and then by his mental quality. 

For Ludwig, part of Chaplin's fascination lay in the fact that here 
was a poor boy who became a millionaire through playing one role 
only, that of a down-at-heel tramp; another part expressed itself in 
terms of rhetoric — "What is the fame of Gandhi compared with him 
who has shaken the world as only the figure of Christ has done before 
him? There is no one yet who has sustained such world-wide fame, 
and yet remains so simple and unaffected". 

These are large claims: yet it is certain that Chaplin's universal 
appeal, together with his overwhelming artistry, explain the deep and 



132 

abiding interest he has aroused among all manner of people over the 
face of the earth. He once said of himself: "Ideally, I am a disciple 
of Anatole France, rather than one of Bernard Shaw. Where Shaw is 
an ethical teacher, Anatole France philosophically knows nothing of 
good or bad, much the same as myself. As for ideals, they are 
dangerous playthings, barren of results, and for the most part, false." 
The amoral quality in Chaplin, and through him in Charlie, did not 
outlast the early years. It is interesting, moreover, that the man who 
found ideals dangerous and barren has in all his films presented an 
ideal of human conduct, through satirizing its reverse; and, what is 
still more important, has endeared himself to millions through his 
idealist-tramp Charlie. 

Chaplin's position in the world has from the beginning been unique. 
On the one hand he is loved, adored, feted, idolized, publicized, photo- 
graphed, mobbed by wholehearted admirers all over the world. All the 
Allied trenches in the 1914-18 war rang to the songs the Tommies sang 
about him. He rose from poverty to fabulous wealth, from obscure 
origins to an entree into every social milieu, feted by the distinguished 
people of his time. On the other hand, Chaplin is featured in every 
scurrility that could be printed about him, attacked and vilified by all 
those he seemed to pillory in his astounding work, howled down for 
his morals, his politics, and above all, his unbreakable individuality. 

It would have been small wonder if he had lost his head under the 
strain of maintaining normal balance on such a monstrous see-saw, and 
shown in his life and work an increasing deterioration. Yet the reverse 
has been true; and one of the major interests of any study of Chaplin 
must be in the integration and full flowering of his personality and 
genius over the years. 

In 1942, seventeen years after it had been voted the best film of 
1925, the Gold Rush was reissued. A few scenes were cut, a few 
previously unused replaced them; and Chaplin composed a musical 
score and substituted a commentary spoken by himself for the old 
subtitles. 

The reissue proved that Charlie is timeless, ageless, a great clown 
and a superlative mime. Where normally the release of old films 
causes laughter at their oddness, the Gold Rush compelled that same 
tribute of laughter and tears and a choke in the throat that another 
generation had offered to it seventeen years before. In Paris, where the 
film was also shown, Chariot became a symbol of the resistance move- 
ment, an embodiment of the unconquerable spirit of mankind. 

Recently, City Lights has been reissued, with the same result. In a 
world caught up in a struggle on the one side anarchic — the struggle 
of the individual to put his ego above society; and on the other side 



133 

materialist — the struggle to put society above the individual, a world 
confused and exhausted, living on nerves stretched to breaking point, 
Charlie comes as a release and a solace, paradoxically enough, since 
he is himself part of the struggle. Long queues have stretched round 
cinemas, waiting even in the rain to see, not the latest Hollywood 
stupendous, but a delicate film made twenty years ago, a silent film 
that went straight to the heart; and goes still to the unchanging heart 
of the people everywhere. 

No other maker of films has been able to cross the frontiers of time 
as Chaplin has; nor is this his only immortality. He has been received 
among the hierarchy of clowns, has joined the immortal family of the 
world of entertainment. 

For there have been clowns since man first recognized in himself and 
his neighbour the impulse to laugh cruelly at deformity. They were 
already present in the circuses and public spectacles of Ancient Egypt, 
Rome and Greece. Through the centuries, their paths crossed those of 
the Commedia dell 'Arte, harlequinade and pantomime. The savagery 
of the laughter they had first aroused gave place to affection; what 
had originally been natural deformity became assumed grotesqueness, 
until, with the development of the modern circus, came its own family 
of clowns, of the highest pedigree, if not of unbroken line. 

First comes the entree clown, superb in spangles and frill, born and 
bred in the Big Top; then the auguste, reaching back into the past as 
far as Augustus Caesar, to a progenitor savage and monstrous, alive 
with political satire and the crude malice of barbarians, but now a 
fantastic figure of fun, forever doomed to be too tall or too short, too 
slow or too quick, prone to stumble, to receive pails of water in the 
face, to slip over a banana skin, forever to blunder and to fail, and be 
taken to the warm hearts of children, who, watching him fall flat upon 
his face as he enters the ring, shout with the welcome given only to 
the dearest friends "Auguste idiot ! ". To these aristocrats of the circus 
was added the Joey, based on the tradition, costume and make-up of 
Joseph Grimaldi, one of the most famous clowns of harlequinade in 
the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. 

Now, in our own time, and in his own time, comes the Charlie, so 
that throughout the world, wherever circuses put up their mushroom 
growths for a few nights or a few weeks, and the clowns, augustes and 
Joeys tumble into the ring, each in his specific and traditional costume, 
there will be found the baggy trousers, huge boots, little bowler, cane, 
and moustache, of the Charlie. 

All circus clowns have their special tradition and technique, in many 
cases handed down from father to son; and it is interesting to note, in 
view of its derivation, that the Charlie is a "wonderfully effective 



134 

combination of the dumbshow actor, the comedian and the circus 
clown who performs as an acrobat or juggler. The cleverest Charlie 
to-day is Charles Rivels, one of the highest paid clowns in the circus 
ring". 

So Charlie the little tramp, who is perhaps the greatest clown 
the world has ever known, in the widest sense of the term, is also 
a member of the most exclusive fraternity of circus clowns, the first 
since Grimaldi, who died in 1837. 

Charlie has a warm and perpetual throne, and his accession to it 
is demonstrated in a million incidents like this one: Two children, 
Susan and Caroline, who know little of world chaos, the burdens 
of adult humanity, the solitude and sadness that weigh upon the 
spirit; nothing of Chaplin's loneliness, nor of his consummate art, 
nothing of his quest after his Holy Grail — these two watched 
some of Chaplin's early films, for the first time in their lives, at a 
party, and rolled upon the floor, and choked in an ecstasy of joy 
and laughter, ached and gasped and groaned with laughter; wept for 
him; and loved him. 

When Chaplin's detractors have all come to ignominious dust, 
together with the fragile film that holds all that is mortal of the 
greatest clown, the Charlie will still bring a shout of recognition 
and joy from the circus arena, increasing and maintaining the 
legendary and lovable quality of the little tramp, securing his immor- 
tality. While, so long as Chaplin's generation walks the earth, the 
Charlie will bring with him nostalgic memories of the unconquerable 
little tramp, with his tight jacket and baggy trousers, small bowler 
and large boots, forever setting out along an endless road, seeking 
eternally with all the ardour of his great and candid soul, a perfection 
always out of reach. 



135 
c©t APPENDICES 

A. The Films of Charles Chaplin 1914-1947 

B. Some Writings of Charles Chaplin 



137 
APPENDIX A 

c©^ The Films of Charles Chaplin 1914-1947 

RELEASE DATES GIVEN 

1914 — The Keystone Films. With Chester Conklin, Alice Davenport, 
Henry Lehrman, Minta Durfee, the Keystone Kids, Mabel 
Normand, Harry McCoy, Hank Mann, Ford Sterling, Fatty 
Arbuckle, Mack Sennett, Edgar Kennedy, Mack Swain, Charles 
Murray, Slim Summerville, Charley Chase, the Keystone Cops, 
Al St. John, etc. 



FEBRUARY 



MARCH 



APRIL 



MAY 



JUNE 



JULY 
AUGUST 



SEPTEMBER 



Making A Living (1 reel) 
Kid Auto Races at Venice (split reel) 
MabeVs Strange Predicament (1 reel) 
Between Showers (1 reel) 

A Film Johnnie (1 reel) 
Tango Tangles (1 reel) 
His Favourite Pastime (1 reel) 
Cruel, Cruel Love (1 reel) 

The Star Boarder (1 reel) 
Mabel at the Wheel (2 reels) 
Twenty Minutes Of Love (1 reel) 
Caught in a Cabaret (2 reels) 

Caught in the Rain (1 reel) 
A Busy Day (split reel) 

The Fatal Mallet (1 reel) 
Her Friend the Bandit (1 reel) 
The Knockout (2 reels) 
MabeVs Busy Day (1 reel) 
MabeVs Married Life (1 reel) 

Laughing Gas (1 reel) 

The Property Man (2 reels) 

The Face on the Barroom Floor (1 reel) 

Recreation (split reel) 

The Masquerader (1 reel) 

His New Profession (1 reel) 

The Bounders (1 reel) 

The New Janitor (1 reel) 



138 

OCTOBER Those Love Pangs (1 reel) 

Dough and Dynamite (2 reels) 
Gentlemen of Nerve (1 reel) 

NOVEMBER His Musical Career (1 reel) 

His Trysting Place (2 reels) 
Tillies Punctured Romance (6 reels) 
(cast included Marie Dressier) 

DECEMBER Getting Acquainted (1 reel) 

His Prehistoric Past (2 reels) 

These are slapstick comedies in the Karno-Sennett tradition, with 
Charlie emerging. His mannerisms are evolved, his fastidiousness, 
his troubles with inanimate objects and with incongruous situations. 
Noteworthy are his acrobatic qualities, his dancing; and the fact that 
his first feature-length comedy, Tillie's Punctured Romance, was made 
in this first year. 



1915— The Essanay Films. With Ben Turpin, Leo White, Edna 
Purviance, Bud Jamison, Lloyd Bacon, Billy Armstrong, Paddy 
McGuire, Marta Golden, Wesley Ruggles, etc. 

FEBRUARY His New Job (2 reels) 

A Night Out (2 reels) 

MARCH The Champion (2 reels) 

Remarkable for its analogies to ballet. The development of the story, 
its timing, and its use of movement, shape and rhythm are all choreo- 
graphic. The scenes in the training quarters (where punch ball, dumb 
bells, Indian clubs and skipping rope are all endowed with malevolent 
life), in the ring, and during the fight itself, are all dancing scenes. 

The film opens with Charlie sharing with his pet bulldog his 
last frankfurter, which the dog refuses to eat until Charlie has put 
salt upon it. The acting of this and subsequent scenes is impeccable 
— Charlie's absorption in the grave business of sharing the food, and 
making it palatable to the dog, his search for the salt which must be 
taken daintily from the recesses of his pockets and sprinkled with 
elegance over the rejected article; his coxcomb showing-off to the 
fair lady (Edna Purviance); his highly dramatic and burlesqued fare- 
well to his dog before he goes to fight — all this has the authentic 
subtlety of Charlie's best mime, in which the flick of an eyebrow 
and the play of a little finger are more eloquent than speech. 

In the Park (1 reel) 



139 

APRIL The Jitney Elopement (2 reels) 

The Tramp (2 reels) 

Here for the first time is an undercurrent of pathos; the first 
appearance of the outcast, the wanderer without shelter. From the 
opening scene of the limitless dusty road bordered with stunted 
bushes, and the little defenceless figure walking wearily down it 
towards the cameras, constantly bowled over and left in the dust 
by motors speeding past, the note of solitude and pathos is set; and 
at the end of the film we have for the first time that poignant finish 
when Charlie, once more defeated in his search for love, a roof, a 
place of his own in the world, walks sadly away down the long road 
and then, inveterate optimist, adventurous vagabond, shrugs away 
sadness, kicks up his heels, and waddles eagerly towards the horizon. 
There are wonderful touches that bring to light the essential 
fastidiousness, the dandyism of the shabby tramp. Bowled over by 
cars, rolled in the dust, he is no sooner upon his feet again than 
out comes a whisk brush from the recesses of his person; and with 
infinite care he brushes himself down, shoots his curls, settles his 
bowler, rubs up his boots on the backs of his trouser legs and meets 
his next encounter with a car like a gentleman. The dandy is apparent 
again as he prepares to eat by the wayside by dipping his ringers 
into water, and cleaning his nails with a knife, all this with a sober 
unselfconsciousness. The Don Quixote is there, when Charlie rescues 
the fair maiden from thieves; and the eternal little fellow filled with 
a desire to love and be loved. Here diabolic life is given to objects, so 
that loaded sacks and pitchforks and eggs, with irresistible comedy, 
become instruments of the fate dogging the steps of the outcast. 

By the Sea (1 reel) 
JUNE Work (2 reels) 

JULY A Woman (2 reels) 

august The Bank (2 reels) 

Offers ample evidence of the further development of Chaplin's 
original line, and a reiteration of the pathetic element in the little 
tramp. This film is a microcosm of Chaplin's work, and on that count 
extremely valuable as an historic document, as well as for its own 
sake as a remarkably perfect work of art. The opening shot makes 
wonderful use of the humour of incongruity, when Charlie enters 
an imposing bank, opens with great dignity an enormous vault — and 
brings out a mop and pail, becoming at once the janitor. Objects 
enter into the persecution against him — the mop achieves a violent 
life of its own that involves him disastrously with other people; alight 



140 

with passionate love and ecstasy he blows a kiss to the beloved he 
worships from afar, turns and immediately bumps into a door. In 
this film too, Charlie is doomed to love in vain. His pathetic flowers 
are despised and rejected, his fervent note torn up. There is an 
unforgettable close-up of Charlie, watching his beloved's reaction to 
his gift through a keyhole, fingers pressed to his mouth in excitement, 
like a child at a party. As he sees his gift scornfully rejected, the same 
pose turns into a mask of sadness and the fingers droop from his 
mouth in utter desolation. It would be impossible to analyse the 
subtle and complex means by which the excited child, retaining the 
same pose, becomes the desolate unwanted. The result is profoundly 
moving: humanity recognizing its essential loneliness. 

Here too for the first time is the use of a dream sequence, trans- 
porting Charlie to a world of fantasy in which he is admired, 
respected, loved, a dynamic hero incapable of blunder. Only to find 
a cruel awakening expressed in the shots in which Charlie on the 
verge of embracing his love, is replaced by Charlie fervently 
embracing his mop. The fine dream is faded, reality oppresses him 
again. And as in The Tramp, he walked lonely down the endless 
road, so now, with the same weary resignation and the same un- 
quenchable optimism, he wanders back to the vault. 

OCTOBER Shanghaied (2 reels) 

November A Night in the Show (2 reels) 

1916 — APRIL Carmen (4 reels) 

A burlesque of the Cecil B. de Mille film of the opera. 

march Police (2 reels) 

1918— AUGUST Triple Trouble (2 reels) 



1916-1917— The Mutual Films. With Edna Purviance, Eric Camp- 
bell, Lloyd Bacon, Charlotte Mineau, Leo White, John Rand, 
Frank J. Coleman, James T. Kelley, Albert Austin, Henry 
Bergman, etc. 

may The Floorwalker (2 reels) 

JUNE The Fireman (2 reels) 

JULY The Vagabond (2 reels) 

AUGUST One A.M. (2 reels) 

An example of Chaplin's experimental approach to cinema at this 
time. The theme of the film is of the slightest — Charlie returning 



141 

home drunk after a convivial evening, trying to get upstairs and into 
bed; and its virtuosity lies in the fact that Charlie is the sole actor, 
apart from the taxi driver in the opening shots. Here he gives full 
rein to his particular and fantastic use of properties. A car door, 
a tiger-skin rug, a stuffed animal, a staircase, and, above all, a folding 
bed, become his fellow actors, the source of his misfortunes, the 
instruments of implacable destiny. Once again, the film is essentially 
ballet, a solo by a male dancer of the highest order, a Njinski of 
drunkenness. 

His struggle with the unmanageable bed is not only physical, but 
taken to a mental plane, when every reaction to the monster is 
reflected on his amazed, shocked, hurt and angry face. The film 
possesses the curiously poetic element that shines forth from all his 
work — for while Charlie stumbles, falls, slips, glides, dances and 
struggles, he conveys, as no one else has ever been able to do, 
the curious kingdom into which a drunken man enters, his inviolability 
there, where even those things most hostile to him fail to impinge 
upon him, where everything has its own, indifferent reality. In this 
case, the bed wins and will not be slept in! Yet the last victory is 
with Charlie, who sinks into the innocent and profound sleep of 
a child, in the bath, crowned with his defiant topper! 

September The Count (2 reels) 

(contains an original tango by Chaplin) 

OCTOBER The Pawnshop (2 reels) 

The subtlest of this series, with a perfection of rhythm and shape 
that are outstanding among all Chaplin's films up to this date. The 
characters in this film are far more than types; their relations with, 
and reactions to, Charlie, are an integral part of the comedy. 
Chaplin's best mime is to be found in this film; and his power to 
breathe life into inanimate objects has never been more ably 
demonstrated. This element of magic, of something more than 
ordinary life lived at ordinary levels, pervades the whole film, reaching 
its apotheosis in the scene in which Charlie, utterly absorbed, deeply 
serious, reduces an alarm clock to its smallest component parts. His 
busy fingers — and how wonderfully expressive they are! — attack the 
clock, while his face expresses not only the emotions and reactions 
proper to each separate craftsman but an over-all absorption like that 
of a child entirely given over to one special miracle in a world of 
miracles. His final gesture of negation and renunciation as he throws 
the useles pieces into the hat of his astonished customer, washing 
his hands literally and metaphorically of the chaos he has wrought, 



142 

fixing him with cold, clear eyes that dare him to question or to 
comment, is a masterpiece all by itself. 

November Behind the Screen (2 reels) 

DECEMBER The Rink (2 reels) 

Contains a very beautiful waltz on skates. 

1917 — JANUARY Easy Street (2 reels) 

april The Cure (2 reels) 

JUNE The Immigrant (2 reels) 

Noteworthy — the superb irony of that shot in which the refugees, 
packed like sardines on board ship, are roped in by the ship's officials 
at the very moment they catch sight of the Statue of Liberty. 

OCTOBER The Adventurer (2 reels) 



1918-1922— The First National Films. With Edna Purviance, Chuck 
Reisner, Henry Bergman, Albert Austin, Syd Chaplin, Tom 
Wilson, Jackie Coogan, Mack Swain, etc. 

april A Dog's Life (3 reels) 

Packed with comedy and pathos. Realism due to autobiographical 

factors. 

AUGUST The Bond (half reel) 

Propaganda film made for the Liberty Loan Committee. 

OCTOBER Shoulder Arms (3 reels) 

The perfect expression of Chaplin's genius. Artistically it offers the 
best of Chaplin — pace, rhythm, comedy, burlesque, satire, pathos, 
and brilliant mime. Charlie at war is still Charlie, taken from one 
dog's life into another. The lovely comedy of his attempt to sleep 
in the flooded dug-out, when he is forced at last to put his head under 
the water in order to lay it upon his submerged pillow; his attempt 
to blow out his candle floating upon the water — attempts that send 
it sailing under the bare feet of his neighbouring bedfellows; the 
hilarious scene in which he disguises himself as a tree — oh shades 
of Dunsinane! — and knocks out Germans who come to gather him 
for firewood — all these offer Charlie at his comic best. But there 
is pathos too. Who can ever forget the stab at the heart that came 
with the sight of the little soldier nibbling cheese from the mouse- 
trap? He alone had received no parcel of food from home, so he 
pretended to enjoy the cheese, refusing friendly offers to share with 
the fixed, forced smile that hides loneliness and neglect and pride. 



143 

Remember him reading, with a passionate interest and excitement 
and appreciation, other people's letters from home, over their hostile 
shoulders, because he had none himself. Wordlessly, soundlessly, with 
mime so subtle it defies analysis, so brilliant it defies description, 
Chaplin limns in his masterpiece — the little soldier, outcast still and 
lonely, caught up in the jaws of Moloch, suffering the true rigors 
f W ar — the boredom, the desolation, the lost hours and days and 
years, the cessation of living, and the familiarity of death. Is it any 
wonder that the trenches rang with the name of "Charlie"? 

1919 — JUNE Sunny side (3 reels) 

Here Chaplin the poet reaches his full development and gives himself 
wholly to the lyrical element that has crept imperceptibly into his 
work. Once more, as with The Champion, and One A.M., the film 
is balletic in composition, and dancing plays an actual part in it, as 
does the dream sequence idea first to be found in The Bank. 

In spite of its comedy and burlesque, Sunnyside is unique among 
all Chaplin's films for its highly developed poetic quality. It is 
a lyric. Two sequences stand out particularly, and for opposite reasons. 
One, the scenes with the nymphs in the dream, where Chaplin's 
superlative dancing overcomes the initial disadvantages of baggy 
trousers, tight waistcoat and shirt sleeves, to achieve, in spite of them, 
a miracle of beauty, the purest poetry of motion; and the utterly 
ridiculous sequence in which, having lost his cows, he takes the head 
of a yokel between his hands and stares long and hard at him, as 
though to make quite sure, in his own mind, that this is not one of 
the missing beasts. The eager, searching look, its blend of hope and 
disappointment, is unforgettable. 

1919 — December A Day's Pleasure (2 reels) 
1921 — February The Kid (6 reels) 

Charlie's motherly care of his adopted baby, his instilling of standards 
of behaviour, their manner of living, is comedy touched with tears. 
His fight to save his "kid" from the hands of officialdom, austerely 
stretched out to take him to frigid safety, leave the tears with no 
comedy to dry them. The ensuing battle to rear the child himself, 
without the interference of cruel philanthropy, is an epic blend 
of comedy and tragedy, where Charlie's well-known indomitable 
spirit reaches new heights of endurance. 

There is burlesque too; but even burlesque, in the hands of this 
incomparable master, undergoes a strange metamorphosis, and 
approaches poetry. The famous dream sequence of The Kid is an 
example of this. 



144 

1921 — September The Idle Class (2 reels) 

1922 — APRIL Pay Day (2 reels) 

1923 — FEBRUARY The Pilgrim (4 reels) 

The initial irony of Charlie's escape from prison in the garb of 
a minister of God sets the tone of the film and gives full scope to 
its satirical intention, carried out with a lightness of touch that in 
no way minimises the cruelty of its ridicule. Two sequences stand 
out with memorable clarity. One is the sermon on David and Goliath 
in which Charlie, mainly through his expressive hands, creates for 
his audience — his congregation — a clear and vivid vision of the 
Biblical story. It is surely not by chance that that particular story 
was chosen. For Charlie himself is a David in arms against the 
Goliath of Society and the myrmidons of Society — the Church, the 
State, and the Law; and we are irresistibly reminded of this as we 
watch the extraordinary pantomimic skill of Charlie the convict dis- 
guised as a minister. Through the film is the glowing comedy of 
Charlie's adaptability to the new role thrust upon him, together 
with certain lapses from it, as when he hangs upon the bars of a 
ticket-office grille much as a convict hangs upon the bars of his cell. 
The final sequence of The Pilgrim tends also to be remembered 
where much else is forgotten. It is in some measure the summing up 
not only of the film, but of Charlie's whole philosophy of life. Led 
to the frontier of Mexico by a well-intentioned sheriff who wishes 
to save him from a return to prison, Charlie is about to escape 
joyously into freedom, when gunshots testify to the presence of 
bandits on the Mexican border. Charlie is on the horns of a dilemma. 
On the one side of the frontier — prison; on the other — mortal danger. 
So Charlie runs steadily along the frontier, one foot in America, one 
in Mexico, daring fate to do its worst, and prudently postponing his 
final choice. This is perhaps the most enjoyable ending of any of 
Chaplin's films, and one that is typically significant. 

1923-1947— United Artists Films. 

1923 — A Woman of Paris (8 reels). Released 1st October. 

Cast: Edna Purviance, Adolphe Menjou, Carl Miller, Lydia 
Knott, Charles French, Clarence Geldert, Betty Morrissey, 
Malvina Polo, Nelly Bly Baker. 
The opening shot of the film creates its atmosphere. Night, silence, 
and sadness expressed by a few roof-tops, a wall, a lighted window. 
The beauty and originality of the film lay in its psychological subtlety 
and in its simplicity of construction; every effect is made through 
understatement. 



145 

The most striking example of this controlled simplicity is the 
classic scene of the departure of Marie St. Clair for Paris: it is an 
example too of the transcendental quality in Chaplin's work, which 
leaves us pursuing his thought on several different planes at once, a 
quality that makes his work as subtle and complex as thought itself. 

The history of cinema to this date was studded with several scenes 
of departure stations, where the fullest use had been made of steam 
and light and shadow, the panting approach and dwindling exit of 
trains, the crowds and bustle, to symbolize parting or reunion or loss. 
Then Chaplin brought his genius to bear upon the well-known factors, 
and once more created the unforgettable in what was perhaps the 
first expressionistic use of his medium known to America. For here 
there is none of the plethora of realistic detail. Only the girl poised 
between light and shadow, quite still. Then the lights from an unseen 
train are projected upon her, slowing down, coming to a stop. And 
she comes forward, alone. There is no train, no station, no human 
being other than the girl. But through his masterly elimination, 
Chaplin conveys light, shadow and stillness — first the girl on the very 
brink of what we discover immediately afterwards to be the destruc- 
tion of her integrity and the beginning of her tragedy. Then, there 
is the panic of being alone at night in darkness that is part of our 
ancient heritage of fear, that has its immediate application to the 
girl waiting on the brink of a precipice. With all this, such beauty of 
light and shadow and the dark, still girl that for this scene alone, 
cinema may rightly be termed an art, to rank with the highest. 
The feeling of the whole film is as sombre and doomladen as any 
Greek tragedy, a masterly accusation of puritanism, a denunciation 
of a shallow, elegant society that Chaplin had discovered to be without 
faith or heart. Being what they are, the characters must react as they 
do; and fate steps in at every turn to ensure their tragedy. 

1925— The Gold Rush (9 reels). Released 16th August. 

Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Georgia 
Hale, Betty Morrissey, Malcolm Waite, Henry Bergman 

(Re-issued April, 1942, with music and commentary by Chaplin) 

Perhaps Chaplin's most famous film. Contains several unforgettable 
shots — Charlie's lonely silhouette against the immense snows of 
Alaska — the episode of the stewed boots — the avalanche that carries 
his log cabin to the edge of the precipice and leaves it rocking over 
space. 

The most poignant scenes are those of the party to which no one 
came, together with the dance of the rolls, which transcend all else. 



146 

Charlie, with infinite care and love, quivering with excitement, 
arranges a New Year's Eve party in his cabin for Georgia and her 
friends, and sits down to wait for them with the beaming face of 
an excited child. His waning excitement, his refusal to realize that 
they are not coming, together with his final acceptance of the fact, 
are of the same unendurable poignancy as the major part of The Kid, 
so that he becomes the living symbol of that isolation of the spirit 
that is beyond remedy. Waiting, and losing hope, he impales two 
rolls upon the prongs of two forks and makes them dance. 

1928 — The Circus (7 reels). Released 7th January. 

Cast: Allan Garcia, Merna Kennedy, Betty Morrissey, Harry 
Crocker, Stanley Sanford, John Rand, George Davis, Henry 
Bergman, Steve Murphy, Doc Stone and Charlie Chaplin. 

The film contains some of Chaplin's funniest comedy effects — his 
careless finger that inadvertently releases the catch of the magician's 
box of tricks, giving the show away and creating chaos — the tight rope 
act attended by a swarm of escaped monkeys who complicate his 
manoeuvres — the death leap by bicycle that takes him out of the 
big top, out of the fairground into the middle of a hardware store. 
The last shot is noteworthy. As the caravans lumber away, taking with 
them the happy lovers, Charlie stands immobile, watching them recede 
into the distance. Nothing remains of the circus but the outline of 
the ring upon the turf and, at his feet, a piece of paper with a star 
on it, that once covered the hoop through which his beloved little 
equestrienne used to jump. Charlie holds it for a while, dreaming, 
desolate, despairing. Then, suddenly, with his special jaunty kick, 
he sends the paper flying, and off he goes, sadness in abeyance now, 
towards the horizon that endlessly promises adventure to the free 
soul. 

1931 — City Lights (87 minutes). Released 6th February. 

Cast: Virginia Cherrill, Florence Lee, Harry Myers, Allan 
Garcia, Hank Mann and Charlie Chaplin. 

Music composed by Charles Chaplin. 

{Re-issued 1950). 

The theme — of Charlie's gallant attempts to keep a roof over the 
head of the young blind flower-seller, his precarious friendship with 
the whimsical millionaire, with whom their fates become inextricably 
woven — gives Chaplin full scope for his peculiar gift of poignancy; 
and for expressing in terms of cinema the most delicate and subtle 



147 

relationships, as he had already done in A Woman of Paris and 
The Gold Rush. Here, the relationship between Charlie and the 
flower-seller, spiritualized by her blindness and his chivalry, is 
miraculously sustained on a plane at once human and sublime, so 
that the cruelty of the final scenes impinge sharply. Charlie, dejected 
and alone, without his cane, recently released from prison, comes 
back to find her happily installed in her shop, her sight restored. 
She bursts out laughing at first sight of the funny down-at-heels 
little tramp staring so fixedly at her; then, ashamed, offers him a 
flower in apology, and some money, because he so obviously needs 
it. Their hands touch, and something of the extra sense remaining 
from her blindness tells her that here before her is her benefactor. 
"Yes, I can see now". The bitterest sub-title Chaplin ever used, and as 
tragic as the final shot of Charlie holding the flower and smiling at 
her with a terrified and poignant realization that reality has destroyed 
the illusion existing between them. Among the comedy effects, the 
incident of the penny whistle, where the feeble chirrup of the invisible 
article, swallowed inadvertently by Charlie when a boisterous 
girl slaps him on the chest, compels a laughter near hysteria. Fate 
never deals Charlie single blows. He gets hiccups and becomes a 
social pariah. His fellow guests are as embarrassed as he is; a singer, 
determined to show his prowess, cannot start, for his every beginning 
is marred by the faint cheep of the whistle as Charlie struggles with 
his hiccups. Alone in a garden, Charlie's invisible whistle calls a taxi; 
then some dogs, until Charlie returns to the party in despair at the 
head of a pack. These incidents, when the film was shown in Paris, 
drew the same hysterical laughter from a very cosmopolitan group 
of students, of most races, most nations. 

1936 — Modern Times (85 minutes). Released 5th February. 

Cast: Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman, Chester Conklin, 
Stanley Sandford, Hank Mann, Louis Natheax, Allen Garcia, 
Lloyd Ingraham, Wilfrid Lucas, Heine Conklin, Edward Kim- 
ball, John Rand and Charlie Chaplin. 

Music composed by Charles Chaplin. 

The early part of the film is packed with comedy embracing all 
those forms customarily used by Chaplin. The old custard-pie 
technique has itself been mechanized, translated into terms of a 
feeding machine destined to speed up production by feeding the 
workers without loss of time. The feeding machine runs amok, and 
once more Charlie is victim to the malignant life of objects, as the 
machine pelts him with food, nuts and bolts, spills soup over him, 



148 

rotates sweet corn furiously, and generally abuses him. Another superb 
episode is the one in which Charlie, a waiter now, replaces an absent 
"cabaret turn" and delivers himself of a gibberish song so amazingly 
presented that we understand every word where no words have been 
sung, a scene fit to rank with the David and Goliath sermon of The 
Pilgrim or the dance of the rolls in The Gold Rush. 

Charlie has a nervous breakdown, and cannot stop the mechanical 
gesture with which he tightens bolts all day long; and then occur 
the unforgettable scenes in which this human machine runs amok and 
tightens everything remotely resembling a bolt — even to the buttons 
on a woman's dress. Society then rejects the intractable and Charlie, 
leaving hospital, becomes one of the army of unemployed, and is 
responsible for one of the most brilliant ironies of the film. 

Rushing to pick up a danger flag that has fallen from a lorry, he 
finds himself suddenly leading a parade of strikers, by virtue of having 
a red flag in his hands. Restored to liberty and poverty after a spell 
in prison as a political agitator, Charlie comes across another waif, 
a young girl. Every effort they make jointly to realize their dream 
of a little house, and a little garden and a little job ends in a journey 
in the Black Maria, until in the end they go off jauntily towards the 
horizon, towards the unknown, just as Charlie had done so many 
times alone. 

1940 — The Great Dictator (126 minutes). Released 15th October. 

Cast : Charlie Chaplin, Jack Oakie, Henry Daniell, Billy Gilbert, 
Grace Hayle, Carter de Haven, Paulette Goddard, Maurice 
Moscovitch, Emma Dunn, Bernard Gorcey, Paul Weigel, Chester 
Conklin, Eddie Gribbon, Hank Mann, Leo White, Lucien Prival, 
Esther Michelson, Florence Wright, Robert O. Davis, Eddie 
Dunn, Peter Lynn and Nita Pike. 

From the moment of Hynkel's first appearance, decked out with 
the glorious sign of the Double Cross, haranguing the mob with such 
hysterical violence that the very microphones bend back beneath its 
onslaught, in a glorious jabberwocky from which the superbly coined 
shtunk! emerges as Hynkel's key word, we have the perfect satirical 
presentation of Hitler and of all dictators. The very quality and 
cadences of voice are there, the phoney withdrawal to the consolation 
of music and solitude, the maniacal rages, the hypocritical fondling 
of babies, the monstrous bombast and theatrical effulgence of the 
mouse that tried to become a mountain. Parallel with this beautifully 
finished study, goes the debunking of Hitler and all he represented, 



149 

beginning with the double-cross and ending with his replacement by 
the little Jewish barber. 

Only Chaplin could bring forth belly laughs from such a subject 
at such a time. Witness the scene of the parley between the two 
dictators over their projected invasion of Austerlich, which degenerates 
into the most wildly funny custard pie fling since Mack Sennett days; 
or the glorious confusion arising out of Napoloni's arrival on an 
Imperial train that draws up in the wrong place; or the scene in 
which the two dictators, in barber's chairs, each strive to gain 
a vantage point from which they can look down on the other; or the 
superb scene filled with an irony light and delicate as a bubble, in 
which Hynkel juggles with a terrestrial globe, dancing with the world 
to the music of Lohengrin until the juggling becomes a ballet, until 
Hynkel caresses the globe with such energy and ardour that it bursts 
in his face, and he breaks down into hysterical sobbing. 

The sentimentality of the film and its pathos are expressed in terms 
of the little Jewish barber — also played by Chaplin — and Hannah 
the Jewish refugee he befriends. 

At the end of the film comes the famous harangue, delivered by 
Chaplin: (see Appendix B.) 

1947 — Monsieur Verdoux (125 minutes). Released 11th April. 

Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Mady Correll, Allison Roddan, Robert 
Lewis, Audrey Betz, Martha Raye, Ada-May, Isobel Elsom, 
Marjorie Bennett, Helen Heigh, Margaret Hoffman, Marilyn 
Nash, Irving Bacon, Edwin Mills, Virginia Brissac, Almira 
Sessions, Eula Morgan, Bernard J. Nedell, Charles Evans, 
William Frawley, Barbara Slater, Christine Ell. 

However fundamental and tragic the social implications of this 
film, there is great comedy in it, and the wonderful touches from a 
master hand, as when he starts laying breakfast for two, suddenly 
remembers the successful activities of the night, and methodically lays 
for one only; or the scene in which his beautifully expressive hands 
hover delicately, lovingly, over his roses, while in the background 
dense black smoke pouring from an incinerator marks the passing of 
a victim. His juggling with a tea cup, his backward fall through a 
window; above all, his magnificent scenes with Martha Raye, who 
has recorded her delight at working with so perfect a partner, arc 
Chaplin at his comic best. Throughout, there is perfection of move- 
ment and gesture and mime, the subtlety of his most finished art in 
his most finished role. 



150 

APPENDIX B 

t©k Some Writings of Charles Chaplin 

1. CHAPLIN ON THE SYMBOLISM OF HIS COSTUME. 

His little moustache? That is a symbol of vanity. His skimpy 
coat, his trousers so ridiculously baggy and shapeless? They 
are the caricature of our eccentricity, our stupidities, our clumsiness. 
( This is obviously the reflective working out of an earlier subconscious 
inspiration, but the idea that the costume itself was a satire on\ 
humanity was probably with him from the beginning. So too the 
importance of the world-famous cane.) The idea of the walking- 
stick was perhaps my happiest inspiration, for the cane was what 
made me speedily known. Moreover, I developed business with it 
to such a point that it took on a comic character of its own. Often, 
I found it hooked round someone's leg, or catching him by the 
shoulder, and in these ways I got a laugh from the public while I was 
myself scarcely aware of the gesture. I don't think I had fully 
understood in the beginning how much, among millions of individuals, 
a walking stick puts a label marked 'dandy' on a man. So that when I 
waddled on to the stage with my little walking stick and a serious 
air, I gave the impression of an attempt at dignity, which was exactly 
my aim. 

2. FROM MY WONDERFUL VISIT (1922). 

A description of the old blind man who was a familiar figure of 
his childhood, standing always under the bridge of Westminster 
Road: — 

There he is, the same old figure, the same old blind man I used to 
see as a child of five, with the same old earmuffs, with his back 
against the wall and the same stream of greasy water trickling down 
the stone behind his back. The same old clothes, a bit greener with 
age, and the irregular bush of whiskers, coloured almost in a rainbow 
array, but with a dirty grey predominant. He has that same stark look 
in his eyes that used to make me sick as a child. Everything exactly 
the same, only a bit more dilapidated. ... To me it is all too 
horrible. He is the personification of poverty at its worst, sunk in that 
inertia that comes of lost hope. It is too terrible. 

The Children of Lambeth 

As I pass, they look up. Frankly and without embarrassment, they 
look at the stranger with their beautiful kindly eyes. They smile at 



151 

me. I smile back. Oh! if only I could do something for them. These 
waifs with scarcely any chance at all. 

Kermington Park 

How depressing to me are all parks! The loneliness of them. One 
never goes to a park unless one is lonesome. And lonesomeness is 
sad. The symbol of sadness, that's a park. 

But I am fascinated now with it. I am lonesome, and want to be. 

Kermington Gate. That has its memories. Sad, sweet, rapidly 
recurring memories. 

'Twas here my first appointment with Hetty. How I was dolled 
up in my little tight-fitting frock coat, hat and cane ! I was quite the 
dude as I watched every street car until four o'clock, waiting for 
Hetty to step off, smiling as she saw me waiting. 

I get out and stand there for a few moments at Kennington Gate. 
My taxi driver thinks I am mad. But I am forgetting taxi drivers. I 
am seeing a lad of nineteen, dressed to the pink, with fluttering heart, 
waiting, waiting for the moment of the day when he and happiness 
walked along the road. The road is so alluring now. It beckons for 
another walk, and as I hear a street car approaching T turn eagerly, 
for a moment almost expecting to see the same trim Hetty step off, 
smiling. 

The car stops. A couple of men get out. An old woman. Some 
children. But no Hetty. 

Hetty is gone. So is the lad with the frock coat and cane. 

Kermington Cross 

It was here that I discovered music, or where I first learned its 
rare beauty, a beauty that has gladdened and haunted me from that 
moment. It all happened one night when I was there. I recall the 
whole thing so distinctly. 

I was just a boy, and its beauty was like some sweet mystery. 
I did not understand. I only knew I loved it and I became 
reverent as the sounds carried themselves through my brain via my 
heart. 

Back of the Strand Theatre 

He takes me to the back of the Strand Theatre, where there are 
beautiful gardens and courts suggesting palaces and armour and the 
days when knights were bold. These houses were the homes of private 
people during the reign of King Charles and even farther back. They 
abound in secret passages and tunnels leading up to the royal palace. 
There is an air about them that is aped and copied, but it is not hard 
to distinguish the real from the imitation. History is written on every 



152 

stone; not the history of the battlefield that is laid bare for the his- 
torians, but that more intimate history, that of the drawing room, 
where, after all, the real ashes of empire are sifted. 

The Old Tomato Man 

I can picture him as he first appeared to me standing beside his 
round cart heaped with tomatoes, his greasy clothes shiny in their 
unkemptness, the rather glassy single eye that had looked from one 
side of his face staring at nothing in particular, but giving you the 
feeling that it was seeing all, the bottled nose with the network of 
veins spelling dissipation. I remember how I used to stand around 
and wait for him to shout his wares. His method never varied. There 
was a sudden twitching convulsion, and he leaned to one side, trying 
to straighten out the other as he did so, and then, taking into his one 
good lung all the air it would stand, he would let forth a clattering, 
gargling, asthmatic high pitched wheeze, a series of sounds which 
defied interpretation. 

And he was still there. Through summer suns and winter snows he 
had stood and was standing. Only a bit more decrepit, a bit older, 
more dyspeptic, his clothes greasier, his shoulder rounder, his one eye 
rather filmy and not so all seeing as it once was. And I waited. But 
he did not shout his wares any more. Even the good lung was failing. 
He just stood there inert in his ageing. And somehow the tomatoes did 
not look so good as they once were. 

Cami and Chariot 

He is coming to me and we are both smiling broadly as we open 
our arms to each other. 

"Cami!" 

"Chariot!" 

Our greeting is most effusive. And then something goes wrong. 
He is talking in French with the rapidity of a machine-gun. I can feel 
my smile fading into blankness. Then I get an inspiration. I start 
talking in English just as rapidly. Then we both talk at once. It's the 
old story of the irresistible force and the immovable body. We get 
nowhere. 

Then I try talking slowly, extremely slowly. 

"Do — you — understand ? " 

It means nothing. We both realize at the same time what a hope- 
less thing our interview is. We are sad a bit, then we smile at the 
absurdity of it. 

He is still Cami and I am still Chariot, so we grin and have a 
good time anyhow. 



153 

Skaya 

The song itself is plaintive, elemental, with the insinuating nuances 
that are vital to Russian music. 

There comes a bit of melancholy in the song, and she sings it as 
one possessed, giving it drama, pathos. Suddenly there is a change. 
The music leaps to wild abandon. She is with it. She tosses her head 
like a wild Hungarian gypsy, and gives fire to every note. But almost 
as it began, the abandon is over. With wistful sweetness she is singing 
plaintively again. 

She is touching every human emotion in her song. At times she is 
tossing away care, then gently wooing, an elusive strain that is almost 
fairylike, that crescendos into tragedy, going into crashing climax that 
diminishes into an ending, searching, yearning, and wistfully sad. 

Her personality is written into every mood of the song. She is at 
once fine, courageous, pathetic and wild. 



3. A SHORT STORY WRITTEN AT THE TIME OF THE 
SPANISH CIVIL WAR* 

RHYTHM 

A STORY OF MEN IN MACABRE MOVEMENT 

Only dawn stirred in the quietude of the little Spanish prison yard 
— dawn, the harbinger of death — while the young loyalist stood before 
the firing squad. The preliminaries were over. The little group of 
officials had drawn to one side to watch the execution and at this 
moment the scene was set in a painful silence. 

From first to last the rebels had hoped that the staff-officer would 
send a reprieve. The condemned man was an opponent of their cause, 
but he had been popular in Spain. He was a brilliant humorist whose 
writings had in large measure rejoiced the hearts of his compatriots. 

The officer in command of the firing squad knew him personally. 
They were friends, before the civil war. Together they had obtained 
their diplomas at the University of Madrid. They had fought together 
for the overthrow of the monarchy and of the power of the Church. 
Together, they had drunk a glass of wine, spent their night round 
tables in a cafe, laughed, joked, and given whole evenings to 

* Rhythm is taken from Pierre Leprohon's book, Charles Chaplin. Melot. 
Paris. 1946. The story is virtually unknown in this country. Our efforts to 
trace the original publication, presumably in the U.S.A., have so far proved 
unavailing. The story is striking, and brings out so clearly a fundamental 
aspect of Chaplin's genius that we wished to call attention to it, and have 
zfelt justified in giving it in the form of a rendering from the French. 



154 

discussions of a metaphysical kind. From time to time they had 
quarrelled over different forms of government. Their divergent views 
then were friendly, but they had finally provoked the unhappiness and 
disruption of the whole of Spain. They had brought his friend before 
the firing squad. 

But what was the good of recalling the past? What was the good 
of reasoning? Since the beginning of the civil war, of what use was 
reason? In the silence of the prison yard, all these questions crowded 
feverishly on the officer's mind. No. The past must be swept clean 
away. Only the future counts. The future? A world that would be 
short of many old friends. 

It was the first time, that particular morning, that they had met 
since war began. They had said nothing. They had only exchanged a 
smile as they were getting ready to enter the prison yard. 

The tragic dawn painted red and silvery rays over the prison wall 
and everything breathed quietude, a repose whose rhythm united with 
the calm of the yard, a rhythm of silent throbbings like the beating of 
a heart. Into this silence, the voice of the officer commanding the 
firing squad resounded against the prison walls : "Attention ! " 

At this command, six subordinates clasped their guns and grew 
rigid: the unity of their movement was followed by a pause during 
which the second command should have been given. 

But, during that respite, something happened, something that broke 
the rhythm. The condemned man coughed, cleared his throat. That 
interruption upset the sequence of events. 

The officer turned towards the prisoner. He was waiting to hear him 
speak. But not a word came. Turning again to his men, he got ready 
to give the second command. But a sudden revulsion seized upon his 
mind, a psychic amnesia that turned his brain into an empty space. 
Distraught, he stood silent before his men. What was happening? 
The scene in the prison yard meant nothing. He saw nothing more, 
objectively, than a man, his back to the wall, facing six other men. 
And these last, on the side, what an idiotic air they had, just like 
watches that had suddenly stopped ticking. No one moved. Nothing, 
had any meaning. There was something abnormal going on. All this. 
was nothing but a dream, and the officer must escape from it. 

Obscurely, memory came gradually back to him. For how long had 
he been there? What had happened? Ah yes! He had given an order. 
But what was the next order? 

After "Attention!" it was "Shoulder arms!" then "Present!" then 
finally "Fire ! ". He had a vague idea of it in his subconscious. But the 
words to be pronounced seemed far away, vague, and outside him. 

In his embarassment, he called out in an incoherent fashion, a con- 



155 

fused babble of words that had no meaning. But he was relieved to see 
his men shoulder arms. The rhythm of their movement brought to life 
again the rhythm of his brain. Again, he called out. The men pre- 
sented arms. 

But during the pause which followed, hurried steps were heard in 
the prison yard. The officer knew at once; it was the reprieve. He came 
to himself at once. 

"Stop ! " he shouted frantically to the firing squad. 

Six men held a gun. Six men had been trained through rhythm. 
Six men, hearing the shout "Stop ! ", fired. 



4. THE FINAL SPEECH IN THE GREAT DICTATOR : 
LET US UNITE 

"I'm sorry, but I don't want to be an Emperor — that's not my busi- 
ness. I don't want to rule or to conquer anyone. I should like to help 
everyone, if possible — Jew and Gentile, Black, White. 

We should all want to help one another; human beings are like 
that. We want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's 
misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world 
there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich, and can pro- 
vide for everyone. The way of life could be free and beautiful. 

But we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men's souls; has 
barricaded the world with hate. It has goose-stepped us into misery 
and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but have shut ourselves in. 
Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge 
has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too 
much, and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. 
More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these 
qualities life would be violent, and all would be lost. 

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The 
very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in man, 
cries out for universal brotherhood, for the unity of us all. Even now, 
my voice is reaching millions throughout the world — millions of 
despairing men, women and little children, victims of the system that 
makes men torture and imprison innocent people. 

To those that can hear me I say, do not despair. The misery that is 
upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear 
the way of human progress. 

Hate of man will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took 
from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, 
liberty will never perish. 



156 

Soldiers, don't give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and 
enslave you, regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think 
and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you 
as cannon fodder. Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men — 
machine men with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not 
machines. You are not cattle. You are men. You have the love of 
humanity in your hearts, you don't hate. Only the unloved hate — the 
unloved and the unnatural. 

Soldiers, don't fight for slavery, fight for liberty. In the 17th chap- 
ter of St. Luke it is written : "The Kingdom of God is within man" 
— not one man, nor a group of men, but in all men. You the people 
have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create 
happiness. You people have the power to make this life free and 
beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. 

Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all 
unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men 
a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. 

By the promise of these things brutes have risen to power. But they 
lied. They do not fulfil that promise — they never will. Dictators free 
themselves, but they enslave the people. 

Now, let us fight to fulfil that promise. Let us fight to free the 
world,, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with 
hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason — a world 
where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness. Soldiers, 
in the name of democracy, let us unite." 



t©^ Bibliographical Note 

THE FOLLOWING WORKS HAVE BEEN CONSULTED : 

My Wonderful Visit. Charles Chaplin. Hurst & Blackett. 1922. 
A Comedian Sees the World. Charles Chaplin. 

Charlie. Louis Delluc (trans. Hamish Miles). Bodley Head Ltd. 1922. 
Charlie Chaplin. His Life and Art. William D. Bowman. Routledge. 

1931. 
Chaplin, Last of the Clowns. Parker Tyler. Vanguard Press. 1948. 
Chariot. Philippe Soupault. Plon. 1931. 
Charlie Chaplin Intime. May Reeves (Souvenirs Recueillis par Claire 

Goll). N. R. F. Gallimard. 1935. 
La Verite sur Charlie Chaplin, sa vie, ses amours, ses deboires. Carlyle 

T. Robinson (Traduit et adapte par Rene Lelu). Paris. Societe 

Parisienne d'Edition. 



157 

Chariot, ou la naissance d'un mythe. Pierre Leprohon. Corymbe. 

Paris. 1935. 
Charles Chaplin. Pierre Leprohon. Jacques Melot. Paris. 1946. 
Hollywood d'Hier et d'Aujourdhui. Robert Florey. Paris. 1948. 
An Index to the Films of Charles Chaplin. Theodore Huff. Special 

Supplement to Sight and Sound. Index Series, No. 3. March, 

1945. 
Behind the Screen. Sam Goldwyn. Grant Richards. 1924. 
Marie Tempest. Hector Bolitho. Cobden-Sanderson. 1936. 
Circus Parade. John S. Clarke. Batsford. 1936. 
Movies for the Millions. Gilbert Seldes. Batsford. 1937. 
Remember Fred Karno. Edwin Adeler and Con West. Long. 1939. 
Film. Roger Manvell. Pelican Books. 1946. 
Histoire Generate du Cinema. Vols. 1 and 2. Georges Sadoul. Paris. 

1947. 
The Art of the Film. Ernest Lindgren. Allen and Unwin. 1948. 
A Writer's Notebook. W. Somerset Maugham. Heinemann. 1949. 

essays in: 

Alarums and Excursions. James Agate. Grant Richards. 1922. 

Cinema. C. A. Lejeune. Maclehose. 1931. 

Assorted Articles. D. H. Lawrence. Seeker. 1932. 

While Rome Burns. Alexander Woolcott. Viking Press. 1934. 

Garbo and the Night Watchmen. Alistair Cooke. Cape. 1937. 

The Poisoned Crown. Hugh Kingsmill. Eyre and Spottiswoode. 1944. 

Chestnuts in Her Lap. C. A. Lejeune. Phoenix House Ltd. 1947. 

Horizon. Vol. 17. No. 19. March, 1948. 

Penguin Film Review. No. 7 (1948), No. 9 (1949). 

Sight and Sound. Spring, Summer, 1°46; Summer, 1949. 

Sequence. Spring, 1948; Spring, 1949. 

Chariot. Le Disque Vert. Paris/Bruxelles. 1924. 



158 

(©, INDEX 



Albany, The. 51. 

Alhambra, Bradford. 23. 

Allen, Chesney (see Flanagan). 21. 

Arbuckle, Fatty. 42. 

Astor, Lady. 51, 71, 72. 

Bairnsfather, Bruce. 51. 
Bancroft, Squire. 51. 
Bank, the. 32, 98, 122, 123. 
Barrie, J. M. 51. 
Barriscale, Bessie. 42. 
Barry, Joan. 77 et seq. 
Bathing Beauties. 30. 
Baxter Hall. 14. 
Beach, Rex. 49. 
Bennett, Billy. 21. 
Bergmann, Henry. 68. 
Beverley Hills. 72, 92. 
Billboard, the. 27. 
Biograph Studio. 30. 
Black Pirate, the. 72. 
British Equity. 17. 
Burke, Nathan. 67. 
Burke, Thomas. 51. 
Byron, Lord. 117. 

Cain, Harry P. 79. 

Cami. 52, 89. 

Carney, George. 21. 

Caroline. 134. 

Caught in a Cabaret. 97. 

Champion, the. 122, 125. 

Chaplin, Charles, senior. 13. 

Chaplin, Charles, junior. 66, 92. 

Chaplin, Geraldine. 92. 

Chaplin, Hannah. 13, 14 et seq., 

17, 51, 55, 69. 
Chaplin, Josephine. 92. 
Chaplin, Michael. 92. 
Chaplin, Sydney. 13, 15, 17, 21, 

22, 24, 25, 32, 41, 45, 51, 55, 

67, 73. 
Chaplin, Sydney, junior. 66, 92. 
Chaucer, Geoffrey. 123. 
Chedecal, Rene. 53. 
Cherrill, Virginia. 69, 70. 
Cherry Blossom. 22. 
Cigale, the. 26. 
Circus, the. 66, 67, 68, 114 et seq. 



City Lights. 68, 69, 71, 72, 73, 
102, 113, 114, 115 et seq., 118, 
121, 126, 132. 

Clipper, the. 27. 

Clive, Henry. 68, 70. 

Clown. 22. 

Clown, the. 114. 

Codd, Elsie. 128. 

Collier, Constance. 93. 

Columbine. 22. 

Columbine, Death of. 93. 

Comedie Italienne. 22. 

Commedia delV Arte. 133. 

Conklin, Chester. 42, 97. 

Coogan, Jackie. 48, 69, 101. 

Crocker, Harry. 68, 70. 

Daly, Mark. 21. 

Daly's Theatre. 20. 

Danvers, Billy. 21. 

David Copperfield. 48. 

Defence Loan Campaign. 45. 

Dickens, Charles. 9, 48. 

District Court of Appeal, Cali- 
fornia. 77. 

Dog's Life, a. 48, 100, 101, 118, 
119. 

Dolin, Anton. 93. 

Dominion, the. 71. 

Duke of York's Theatre. 18. 

Dunville, T. E. 93. 

Early Birds. 22. 
Easy Street. 99. 
Edison, T. A. 13. 
Egypt, Ancient. 133. 
Eight Lancashire Lads. 17. 
Eisler, Hans. 79. 
Ennis, Bert. 27. 
Ervine, St. John. 51, 68. 
Essanay Company, the. 31, 32, 42, 
56, 98, 99. 

Fairbanks, Douglas. 42, 52, 55, 72, 

102. 
Farmer, Dustin. 42. 
Fatal Mallet, the. 97. 
Ferguson, Elsie. 49. 
First National Company. 43, 48, 

54, 100, 102. 
Flanagan, Bud (see Allen). 21. 



159 



Floorwalker, the. 41. 
Florey, Robert. 9, 75. 
Folies Bergeres, les. 26. 
Football Match, the. 23. 
France, Anatole. 132. 
Frank, Waldo. 53. 
Frederick, Pauline. 49. 
French Association of Cinema 
Critics. 79. 

Galahad. 123. 

Gandhi. 131. 

Geraghty, Tom. 52. 

Gerrard, Gene. 21. 

Giddy Ostend. 18. 

Glyn, Elinor. 49. 

Goddard, Paulette. 74 et seq., 76, 

77, 91, 116. 
Godfrey, Charles. 93. 
Gold, Jimmie (see Naughton). 21. 
Gold Rush, the. 65, 66, 67, 104 et 

seq., 115, 117, 132. 
Goldwyn, Sam. 42, 43, 46, 48, 49, 

54, 71, 79, 94, 117, 127. 
Great Dictator, the. 76, 79, 100, 

102, 113, 117 et seq., 126. 
Greece. 133. 

Grey, Lita. 65 et seq., 75, 91. 
Griffiths, D. W. 42, 55, 102. 
Grimaldi, Joseph. 133, 134. 

Hale, Georgia. 66, 70. 

Hanwell Institution, the. 15, 71. 

Harlequin. 22. 

Harris, Mildred. 45 et seq., 53, 55, 

65, 67, 75, 91. 
Hay, Will. 21. 
Hilarity. 22. 

His Prehistoric Past. 97, 125. 
Hitler, Adolf. 76, 117. 
Hollywood. 22, 24, 25, 32, 43, 44, 

54, 68, 71, 72, 74, 75, 76, 80, 

92, 103. 
Holmes, Sherlock. 18. 
Holy Grail. 123, 134. 
Honeysuckle and the Bee, the. 20, 

71. 
Howard, Sydney. 21. 
Howes, Bobby. 21. 
Hughes, Rupert. 43, 49. 

Iceman Cometh, the. 11. 
Idle Class, the. 49. 
Immigrant, the. 43. 



Jail Birds. 22. 

Jazz Singer, the. 68. 

Jefferson, Stanley (Stan Laurel). 

23. 
Jesus Christ. 113, 131. 
Jimmy the Fearless. 23, 24, 32. 
Johnson, Amy. 72. 
Jolson, Al. 68. 
Joyce, Peggy Hopkins. 55. 

Karno, Fred. 21 et seq., 30, 32, 42. 
Keaton, Buster. 98. 
Kelly, Hetty. 20, 121. 
Kennedy, Myrna. 66. 
Kennington Cross. 20. 
Kennington Park. 20. 
Kessel, Adam. 26, 27. 
Keystone Productions. 27, 30, 31, 

91, 113, 129. 
Keystone Comedies. 10, 30, 97. 
Keystone Comedians. 30. 
Keystone Cops. 24, 30. 
Keystone Studios. 30, 76, 97. 
Kid, the. 16, 47 et seq., 50, 65, 94, 

101, 104, 116, 119, 122. 
Kinetoscope, the. 13. 
Kingsmill, Hugh. 117. 
Kitchen, Fred. 21, 30. 
Knoblock, Edward. 49, 51, 52. 

Landru. 78, 120. 

Lapin Agile, the. 53. 

Laurel, Stan (see Jefferson). 23. 

Lawrence, D. H. 91. 

Life. 103, 113. 

Limehouse. 126. 

Limelight. 93. 

Linder, Max. 26, 30, 127. 

Lloyd, Harold. 98. 

London Hippodrome. 18. 

Lucas, E. V. 51. 

Lucca. 30. 

Ludwig, Emil. 131. 

Mabel's Strange Predicament. 125. 
MacMurray, Lolita (see Lita Grey). 

65. 
MacMurray, Mrs. 65, 67. 
Making a Living. 102. 
Malone, Dudley. 53. 
Mann Act, the. 77. 
Manvell, Roger. 119. 
Markova, Alicia. 92, 93, 94. 
Maugham, W. Somerset. 49. 



160 



Maurier, Gerald du. 51. 

Menjou, Adolphe. 56. 

Meredith, Burgess. 76. 

Miller, Max. 21. 

Modern Times. 73, 74, 75, 79, 102, 

115 et seq., 118, 119. 
Moore, Owen. 42. 
Mumming Birds. 22, 27. 
Mussolini, Benito. 117. 
Mutual Company. 32, 41, 43, 98 

et seq. 
My Wonderful Visit. 50, 54, 126. 

Napoleon. 14, 113, 117. 

Naughton, Charlie (see Gold). 21. 

Nefertiti. 73, 92. 

Negri, Pola. 53 et seq., 56, 75. 

New Woman's Club, the. 22. 

New World Order. 91. 

New York Motion Picture Com- 
pany. 27. 

Night in a London Music-Hall, a 
(see Mumming Birds). 27. 

Nobel Peace Prize. 79. 

Normand, Mabel. 28, 29, 42. 

One A.M. 122, 125. 
O'Neill, Eugene. 77. 
O'Neill, Oona. 77, 91 et seq., 93. 

Palais Heinroth. 53. 

Pals that Time Cannot Alter (see 

Chaplin, senior). 13. 
Pantage's Theater. 27. 
Pantaloon. 22. 
Parker, Sir Gilbert. 49. 
Peter Pan. 18. 
Picasso, Pablo. 79. 
Pickford, Mary. 41, 42, 55, 102. 
Pilgrim, the. 54, 103. 
Purviance, Edna. 20, 42, 43, 44, 

48, 56, 69, 89, 99, 103, 116. 

Quixote, Don. 101, 114, 124. 

Rabelais, Francois. 122. 
Rankin Committee, the. 79. 
Ray, Charlie. 42. 
Raye, Martha. 24, 125, 128. 
Reece, Arthur. 93. 
Reeves, Alfred. 25, 27. 
Reeves, May. 73 et seq., 125. 
Rivels, Charlie. 134. 
Robin Hood. 72. 



Robinson, Carl. 68 et seq., 73, 89. 
Roland, Ruth. 42. 
Romance of Cockayne. 18. 
Rome. 133. 
Rosinante. 124. 

Sane ho Panza. 124. 

Sassoon, Sir Philip. 51. 

Saturday to Monday. 22. 

Schopenhauer. 23, 42. 

Seldes, Gilbert. 103. 

Senate Judiciary Committee. 79. 

Sennett, Mack. 22, 24, 26, 27 et 

seq., 42, 80, 97. 
Shaw, Bernard. 9, 71, 72, 132. 
Shakespeare, William. 9, 20, 23, 

120. 
Sheridan, Mark, 93. 
Sherlock Holmes. 18. 
Shoulder Arms. 44, 48, 100, 101, 

117, 119, 125. 
Soviet Russia. 78, 90. 
State Socialism. 90. 
Sterling, Ford. 24, 26, 27, 28, 42. 
Suicide, the. 113. 

Sunnyside. 48, 100, 101, 119, 122. 
Superior Court, California. 77. 
Susan. 134. 
Swain, Mack. 42, 104. 

Tempest, Marie. 20. 
Three Musketeers, the. 72. 
Tragedy of Eros, the. 22. 
Tramp, the. 98, 118, 123, 125. 
Tree, Beerbohm. 20. 
Turpin, Ben. 42, 98. 

United Artists Corporation. 55, 56, 
73, 102, 103. 

Variety. 27. 

Verdoux, Monsieur. 9, 10, 23, 76, 
77 et seq., 91, 94, 97, 102, 103, 
119 et seq., 124, 128, 130. 

Wakes Week. 22. 

Warner Brothers. 68. 

Weldon, Harry. 23. 

Welles, Orson. 78, 130. 

Wells, H. G. 51, 68, 91, 121, 127. 

Westminster, Duke of. 125. 

Woman of Paris, a. 56, 73, 102 et 

seq., 113. 
Woolcott, Alexander. 115, 126. 



Made in England 




The little felloi